Couple guilty in murder of mother of 2-month-old

PLANADA, Calif. (AP) — A California couple have been convicted of luring an acquaintance to their home and strangling her to kidnap her 2-month-old boy.

A jury found Maria Robles guilty of first-degree murder Friday, and a separate jury found Jose Velarde guilty of second-degree murder Monday, the Merced Sun-Star reported ( ). Both were also convicted of kidnapping and other charges.

Robles, 34, faces life in prison without parole, and Velarde, 38, faces a sentence of 32 years to life behind bars.

“We don’t expect either of these defendants to get out of prison,” Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II told the Sun-Star. “We expect they will die in custody and that’s appropriate.”

The couple were arrested in December 2010, days after authorities said they lured 26-year-old Ana DeCeja and her 2-month-old boy to the couple’s home. Authorities said the couple then strangled DeCeja, burned her body and dumped it.

The couple knew the victim and became better acquainted with her at a health clinic not long before she was killed, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin had said. The couple panicked and abandoned the baby after media reported the incident, authorities said.

The boy was reunited with his father after being found crying on a doorstep.

Prosecutors argued in court that the couple plotted to kill DeCeja because Robles could no longer have children and they wanted to raise the baby as their own child.

During the trial, attorneys for each defendant blamed the other for DeCeja’s death.

Robles and Velarde are scheduled to be sentenced in July and August, respectively.

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