A 39-year-old man who switched his plea to guilty in the 1995 stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend in East Palo Alto was sentenced to 17 years to life in prison Thursday, according to the San Mateo County district attorney’s office. Jose Luis Arreola Cruz changed his plea to guilty in September following his 20-year-old daughter’s testimony about witnessing her mother’s death on May 21, 1995, when she was 3 years old. Gabriella Tello, 19, was killed in her home after an argument with Cruz, who grabbed her by the hair and then used a knife to stab her until the weapon broke and he found a second knife to resume the assault, according to the district attorney’s office.
Her daughter testified that Tello was able to tell her “I love you” just before she died on the kitchen floor, prosecutors said. Border patrol officers arrested Cruz on March 10, 2011, after he crossed the U.S. border not far from Laredo, Texas, 16 years after he had been on the lam since the murder, according to the district attorney’s office. Cruz had pleaded not guilty in 2011 to second-degree murder in Tello’s death. He was crying during his daughter’s testimony in September, and later decided to change his plea.
At his sentencing Thursday at the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, remarks were made by two of Tello’s sisters and Tello’s daughter, Stephanie. Letters were also read from the victim’s parents and a third sister, according to district attorney officials. Cruz was sentenced to the maximum 17 years to life in prison term for second-degree murder and for using a knife to commit the murder, according to the district attorney’s office.
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