SAN ANTONIO -- It was a brutal attack, a stabbing that left two people dead. So why was the killer given a plea deal charging him with only one murder, and making him eligible for parole in 30 years?
Jaie Avila was in court for the sentencing hearing that left some family members furious. Prosecutors, however, say they have good reasons for dropping one of the murder charges and cutting a deal. That didn’t make it any easier for family members who had to watch the alleged killer grin and laugh in court.
Elijah Jon Lucero seemed happy for a man about to receive a minimum of 30 years in prison. Perhaps because he was originally charged with the capital murder of two people: Daniela Medrano and Edward Cisneros. Both were stabbed repeatedly, in an East Side apartment in February of 2011.
Lucero smiled and winked at our camera as he waited for the victim's family members to speak.
Laura Medrano, Daniela's sister, shouted in anger that Lucero would still be able to look at his kids when they visit him in prison.
“My sister can't look at her kids, she can't look at us. You deserve to be in prison for the rest of your life.”
As unfair as it feels for the family, the district attorney's office says they had to offer the deal to Lucero, because the investigation found evidence Edward Cisneros was a Mexican Mafia member with a criminal record, and Daniela Medrano was a known drug dealer.
Lucero claims they attacked him and he was defending himself. Prosecutors don't believe that, but they say a jury might have found him not guilty.
“Now they're coming around and telling us that we don't have any say so, that they're going to plea bargain with him. We don't want a plea; we want him to get the max. We are willing to take a chance with a jury,” said Edward’s brother, Elvis Cisneros.
Another one of Daniela’s sisters, Luisa Medrano, confronted Lucero about his seeming indifference at the hearing.
“You took somebody's life and you can't even look at me in the face?” she shouted.
Prosecutors say 30 years with no appeal for one murder is a good deal. The victims' families claim Lucero worked the system to avoid the death penalty and get a shot at freedom someday.
Some families are surprised to find out they have no say as to whether a plea agreement is offered. It is entirely up to the district attorney's office, which in this case says, it got a dangerous man off the streets for a long time.