"Nothing," Michael C. Sontoya muttered when Ramsey County District Judge Marybeth Dorn asked whether he had anything to say before he was sentenced Friday morning. The judge then told him he'd spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for causing the death of Gabriela Romo.
Sontoya, 32, was convicted Thursday night of first-degree murder while committing a sexual assault and second-degree murder while committing felony assault.
The 31-year-old mother of four bled to death in Sontoya's St. Paul apartment Sept. 30 after spending the evening drinking with Sontoya, a man she had known since second grade and had trusted as a friend.
The victim's sister Veronica Romo and her aunt Eloise Lozano read victim-impact statements before the judge handed down the sentence.
"When we lost Gaby we lost a beautiful daughter, sister, cousin, granddaughter and friend," Romo said. "Our family lost the glue that bonded us together. ... We still can't believe she's gone."
Lozano, who is the grandmother of Sontoya's three children (the mother of his children is Gabriela Romo's first cousin), said, "One of the hardest things has been to watch what we say to the kids.
"The two older kids know all about this case ... they knew from the very start," she said. "I pray for my grandsons that they grow up to be respectful to women."
Then the judge told Sontoya, "All I can say to you is the depravity of your crime mirrors the sentence I am about to impose."
Dorn ended the hearing by thanking the Romo family.
"I admire your restraint here," she said. "I want you to know that all of us involved in this process are going to remember Gabriela for the beautiful woman she was."
The jury heard four days of testimony and saw numerous photos of the bloody crime scene and the gruesome injuries Sontoya inflicted on Romo. They also saw two videotaped interviews of Sontoya with police Sgt. Scott Payne.
Sontoya told Payne that he picked up Romo at her parents' home in St. Paul about 11 p.m. Sept. 29 and they went out for a few drinks. About 2 a.m., they headed to his home in the 700 block of S. Robert Street. They'd had sex, he said, "just sex, nothing out of the ordinary or anything."
Ramsey County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee testified that Romo bled to death from a 14-inch internal tear that damaged her spleen, liver and diaphragm. She also had extensive lacerations to her genital area.
Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992