A Los Angeles man who pleaded guilty to murdering two girlfriends, including one whose dismembered body was found in Mexico, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli, who said he saw photos of the dismembered corpse, called the murders "horrendous" and "sickening" before imposing the sentence on 55-year-old Aurangzeb Aiyoob Manjra.
The remains of Esperanza Torio, 39, were found 17 miles apart in the Mexican beach city of Rosarito south of the U.S. border. The head was separated from the body, and hands and feet were missing. A DNA match in 2009 identified the remains.
Torio's sister, Edna Magpayo, was the first to report the disappearance of "Espy" in 1996. In a downtown courthouse Wednesday, Magpayo asked Manjra to face her as she spoke, but he declined.
"We may look normal — we may have moved on," she told him. "But there's a space in our hearts that will never be filled."
Torio had two children, as did the second victim, 44-year-old Maria Santos. She was reported missing in 2004, but her body has not been found.
Speaking on behalf of Santos' family in the Philippines, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian said that what Manjra "had taken away from two young children can't be replaced."
Manjra owned a used car dealership at the time of the first murder and said he owned a computer-parts store when he was arrested in 2010.
Prosecutors said that Manjra stalked and harassed his girlfriends. His wife of three years in the 1980s and a subsequent girlfriend had "escaped" him, police said. But his last two girlfriends could not. He went as far as traveling to the Philippines to bring Torio back when she tried to run away, authorities said.
After seven years with Manjra, Torio had started living with her sister at the time of her death and was set to move into her own apartment the weekend she disappeared. Torio suffered beatings and endured sessions of Russian roulette at the hands of Manjra, according to her journal, which was recovered by police.
In Santos' case, a sentencing report stated that Manjra "asserted a pattern of jealousy, domination and violence" to successfully scare her into staying with him. Authorities said he targeted women with children and low self-esteem and used a set of "14 rules" that he devised to guide his controlling relationship.