BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The man who raped and murdered 13-year-old Patricia Alatorre was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after family of the victim told the court how he upended their lives.

Armando Cruz, 26, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder, rape and other charges filed in the killing of Patricia.

Patricia’s mother, Clara Alvarez, wrote a letter saying all she has of her daughter are memories. She sometimes tries to picture what Patricia would look like if still alive.

Cruz, whom Alvarez repeatedly referred to as a “monster,” deserves to spend the rest of his days in a cell, she wrote.

Armando Cruz sits next to his attorneys, Deputy Public Defender Thomas Pope and Chief Assistant Public Defender Tanya Richard, as he’s sentenced to life without parole.

“This child murderer is a cruel and ugly sick-minded person who should never see the light of day ever again,” she wrote.

A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured Patricia, who was initially reported missing, getting into a white pickup late July 1, 2020. Conversations were later found on her Instagram account between her and a man insisting she meet him.

That man, identified as Cruz, was detained days later at his Inglewood home and described in detail how he killed the teen, according to court documents. He directed investigators to where he left her cellphone and the construction site where he dumped her body and set it on fire.

Patricia’s sister Vivianna Alatorre said the family was forced to have a closed casket funeral.

Patricia was her best friend, Vivianna Alatorre told the court. Losing her changed her outlook on life. Her family had to relocate, and she’s often afraid when she leaves the house, wondering if she, too, will be killed.

“Having a sibling murdered changed me deeply,” she said. “It changes your soul.”

Cruz sat quietly, looking down at the defense table through most of the hearing.

Afterward, Alvarez left the courthouse with more than a dozen family members. She leaned on a wall of the building, sobbing.

Dropping the death penalty

The District Attorney’s office pursued the death penalty against Cruz but agreed to drop it for guilty pleas on all charges and a stipulated sentence of life without parole.

Prosecutor Christine Antonios said Cruz committed an “unbelievably horrific” crime.

“It is unimaginable what he did in this case,” she said.

But the DA’s office, as it does with every death-eligible case, considers a variety of factors before proceeding to trial, Antonios said. When the option of Cruz pleading guilty arose, it seemed like the best resolution, she said.

The Alatorre family was consulted, she said, but ultimately the decision rests with prosecutors.

Among factors considered were the pain family and witnesses would experience during testimony, Antonios said, and the current moratorium on the death penalty under Gov. Gavin Newsom.

No inmate in California has been executed since 2006.

Cruz’s attorneys, Chief Assistant Public Defender Tanya Richard and Deputy Public Defender Thomas Pope, declined comment.

Cruz possessed more than 600 images of child pornography, including 10 or more images of a minor under 12, court filings said.

Antonios said some of the child pornography was unrelated to this case. According to court documents, Cruz lured Patricia into his truck in part by threatening to post inappropriate photos of her online.

Tyson McCoy, a second prosecutor on the case, said he wouldn’t go into specifics out of respect for Patricia’s family, but evidence showed Cruz used tactics through social media to groom the teen, something he said is not uncommon.

“The reality is that the internet is a dangerous place,” McCoy said.