VISTA, Calif. - A Vista man who fatally stabbed a woman and critically wounded her 8-year-old daughter in the victims' San Marcos apartment last year was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years to life in state prison.
Daniel Hernandez, 28, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder and premeditated attempted murder.
He stunned the courtroom when he read a rambling letter, claiming "the devil and a demon had control of my mind and my life."
Hernandez repeatedly talked about having no control over his actions.
"The devil can enter your mind and your life and take control of you and one human being is no match against the devil's power," he said.
After court, Teresa Garcia, a cousin of the victims told 10News, "It was disgusting! It was a disgusting cop-out for being a coward."
Sheriff's deputies went to a unit in the Whispering Oaks Apartment complex on North Twin Oaks Valley Road about 3:30 a.m. last Dec. 18 and found 41-year-old Antonia Marie Duran dead of multiple stab wounds and her daughter, Azalya, badly injured, homicide Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said.
Deputy District Attorney Tracy Prior said Hernandez, who had met Duran a couple months earlier at a car wash, went to her apartment the day of the murder with the intent to kill her.
The defendant searched the apartment to make sure no one else was there, finding only Azalya asleep in her room, Prior said.
The girl woke up while Hernandez was stabbing her mom and screamed, "Leave my mother alone!" the prosecutor said. Not wanting to leave a witness, Hernandez then attacked the girl, stabbing her 26 times in the liver, kidney and pancreas, Prior said.
Emergency responders who went to the scene said the girl told them, "I don't want to die," before she was taken to a hospital. The child was placed in a medically-induced coma but survived.
Prior said Duran's adult son found his mother and sister lying in a pool of blood after seeing the defendant run from the apartment. Duran was stabbed 22 times, Prior said.
Hernandez was located at a nearby laundry washing the clothes he had been wearing, including a sweatshirt, shoes and other clothing, the prosecutor said.
Prior told the court Azalya is being "resilient as they come but she's also so scared, still, of this defendant. She's scared to sleep by herself at night. She worries when dogs bark at night because they barked that night and she's scared that he will come back."
Later, Azalya's cousin read a letter the fourth grader had written.
"I will always be scared that he comes back to kill me," she said. "Please do not let Daniel Hernandez out so I can live a kind-of normal life. I already lost my mommy and I had to watch her die. My life will never be normal."
Superior Court Judge Michael Kirkman, in passing sentence, told Hernandez, "Your crimes are so despicable, so horrendous. You will at all times constitute a threat to this community."
He declared, "I can't give you enough time," and that Hernandez "should never be released."