FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Broward Circuit Court Judge Matthew Destry on Wednesday sentenced Gerard Lopes, who was convicted of killing his adoptive mother, to life in prison.
"You have no conscience to guide you, Mr. Lopes. You have no empathy for others. A man who could do this to his own mother cannot walk free among us," said Destry. "You dumped her half naked and beaten body in a swamp. You did not even have the decency to cover her."
Last month, jurors convicted Lopes, 23, of second-degree murder in Natalie Belmonte's death.
Belmonte's brother-in-law, Alex Teixeria, declined to talk the sentence but read a statement focusing on the loved one his family lost.
"The stress and anguish this tragedy has caused this family has been is unthinkable. Tonight, we plan to go home and celebrate Natalie's life," he said.
Others were more forward.
"I think that a more appropriate sentence would have been the death penalty, but I don't think that was the family's wishes. The family wanted him to suffer in some way similar to the way Natalie suffered," said David Eiglarsh, who worked with Belmonte.
Second-degree murder isn't punishable by the death penalty in Florida.
Prosecutors said Lopes raped Belmonte, then killed her to cover it up. Lopes' attorneys argued the two had consensual sex.
Belmonte was last seen on July 16, 2011. Three days later, police found her body in a wooded area a few miles from her home.
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