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WEST JORDAN — Carlos Soto-Lopez spent almost an hour talking to the judge before his sentencing Thursday.
He cried as he talked about his daughters and how they deserved to be happy and how he can't undo what he did in strangling and killing their mother and his common-law wife, Sandra Hernandez. He said no amount of time in prison could bring her back.
But 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow said one thing has stood out in all the times Soto-Lopez has addressed her.
"It struck me that he was very self-pitying and very self-centered, even as he talks about his daughters and basically preaches to us," the judge said. "There is a self-centeredness that runs throughout."
She then ordered the man to spend up to 25 years in prison, sentencing him to one to 15 years in prison for manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and two terms of zero to five years in prison for two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony.
Hernandez, 26, was found dead at the Midvale Villa apartments near 7900 South and 800 West with a phone cord tied around her neck May 6, 2010. When officers arrived they found Soto-Lopez, 31, standing in the parking lot with his hands covered in blood, police said.
According to a jail report, Lopez stood with his wrists together, ready to be handcuffed, and told officers, "I killed my wife" and asked them to "take me to jail." The couple's two daughters, then 4 and 8, were home at the time, but are not believed to have seen or heard what happened.
It struck me that he was very self-pitying and very self-centered, even as he talks about his daughters and basically preaches to us. There is a self-centeredness that runs throughout.
–3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow
Soto-Lopez's attorney, Ralph Dellapiana, said his client's goal was always to provide a good life for his family, but that Hernandez had multiple affairs. He said the violence came after a long night in which Soto-Lopez believed his wife was missing.
"When she showed up the next morning with the explanation that she had been with another man, it was just too much for him to bear," Dellapiana said, adding that his client was sad about what he had done.
Soto-Lopez told the judge the he accepted responsibility from the beginning and that he wishes he could change what had happened. He talked about how much he loved his daughters and hoped for their happinesss.
"I'm going to pay whatever I have to pay for this," he said. "Whether I'm there 100 years, 1,000 years, it's not going to bring her back … It's only going to destroy what little is left of my daughters."
He asked for forgiveness from Hernandez's family and asked that they take care of his daughters. He said there was no justification for what he had done.
"I relive it every day," he said. "What I did is going to be with me for the rest of my life. … I will carry, for the rest of my life, what I have done."
Hernandez's mother, Trinidad Covarrobias, cried as she told the judge that Soto-Lopez was "always lurking over" her daughter and that he would often hide her cellphone and cellphone charger. She said she tried to give him advice.
"When they were having all these problems, I told him to just let her go," Covarrobias said. "I would always tell him, don't hurt my daughter. Realize you are the parents of two girls."
Both Covarrobias and Hernandez's sister, Orquidia, said the girls, now 7 and 10, have struggled since their mother's death. They ask about her and their father and cry when they pray for their mother.
"If you think their reward is to be happy, that's not going to happen, because you have destroyed their lives," Orquidia Hernandez said. "To me, you took away my only sister. My friend."
She said nothing will bring back her sister and replace her nieces' mother. She found little satisfaction in the sentence Soto-Lopez received.
"I would wish he would stay (in prison) forever and ever," she said.