A man convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn child will spend 40 years to life in prison.
Ruben Cepeda, 22, was sentenced Friday at the North County Regional Center in Vista located in Southern California.
In an emotional sentencing, both sides and the judge acknowledged that Cepeda did not intend to harm his pregnant 18-year-old girlfriend, Viridiana Rodriguez, when he fatally shot her in the stomach on April 7, 2012 inside their Escondido apartment.
“I did lose my son; something I always wanted,” Cepeda said in court. “I just want to say it was an accident.”
Cepeda went on to apologize in court, adding that there was no reason for him to have a gun in the first place.
But, while both sides acknowledged there was no malice in the philosophical sense in this case, a deputy district attorney explained there was legal malice, which is why Cepeda was convicted on two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Rodriguez and their unborn baby.
“Whether accidentally or intentionally, law rightfully holds you accountable for that person’s life, even if you hadn’t intended to kill that person,” said Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe.
By the time police arrived at the scene of the fatal shooting on April 7, 2012, Cepeda had fled.
Officers discovered Rodriguez inside her apartment, suffering from a gunshot wound to the stomach. She was transported to a hospital, but the young mother-to-be and her unborn baby were pronounced dead about an hour later.
Rodriguez was nearly five months pregnant at the time, and was expecting a baby boy.
Cepeda was eventually captured by authorities in Mexico in June 2012. He had been sought by officials for two months on a $1 million arrest warrant in connection with the double-homicide.
At a preliminary hearing in June 2012, prosecutors said Cepeda claimed the shooting was accident. However, evidence showed the barrel of the gun was pressed directly against the victim’s stomach.
In an April 2012 interview, Yemely told NBC 7 that the couple was excited, hugging and kissing before the shooting. Yemely later heard a gunshot go off inside the apartment and found her critically wounded sister.
Yemely said that when she found her sister, Cepeda was holding Rodriguez’s stomach. He told Yemely to call 911 and then left the apartment with a friend.
Prosecutors said Cepeda’s friend, Jesse Lopez, wrapped the gun in a T-shirt before they fled the scene. Lopez was later arrested on charges of being an accessory to the double-murder.
In court on Friday, Cepeda received two 15 to life sentences, which he will serve concurrently. But, because he committed a prior felony before the shooting, that sentence is doubled to 30 to life under the California three strikes law.
State law also adds 10 years for a “gun allegation,” bringing the total sentence to 40 years to life. Cepeda will be eligible for parole after 38.5 years. Of course, the defense can and may appeal this case.