Peter Thao looked on silently as Cecilia Aguilar told of her grief. Her voice breaking as she began reading...
"I am my mother's daughter."
She recalled the horrible discovery in her mother's apartment in National City late last year; 92-year-old Connie Rivera robbed and beaten to death.
"We will never understand the heinous murder of my mother, Maria Consuelo Aguilar. I often re-live her terror and horror. She was a weak, gentle old lady; no match for you, Peter Thao."
Thao had apparently followed her home after a visit to a nearby casino. Witnesses supplied police with a description of the man lurking nearby and this sketch led to Thao's arrest.
He pleaded guilty to first degree murder to avoid a possible death penalty; later changed his mind and tried to withdraw that plea. It was rejected and Judge Ana Espana sentenced Thao to 31-years to life in prison.
Connie Rivera's family is happy it's over.
"We will walk among the tombstones and bring flowers to our mother's grave. We will tell mom to rest and sleep in peace. Justice is served."
The loss, though, remains.
"There is an empty chair, an empty space on the dining table; an eerie silence many times during the day and night and the pain still goes on till now."