The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a man convicted of killing his father, stepmother and two half-brothers in their Hyde Park home more than two decades ago, when he was a teenager, and trying to make the shootings look like a murder-suicide.
Saulo Cesar Alvarado, now 39, was convicted in April 2018 of first-degree murder for the April 1999 killings of Rudolfo Alvarado, 51, Eva Veronica, 36, and their sons Renzo, 16, and Victor, 4, along with two counts of lewd acts on a child involving a then-underage family member.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder while lying in wait. He was ineligible for the death penalty because he was 16 at the time.
Each of the victims was shot in the head. The murder weapon was placed in Renzo Alvarado’s hand to try to make it appear that it was a murder-suicide, according to Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila.
Alvarado was charged with the killings in September 2015, after Alvarado’s half-sister came forward as a witness. He was extradited from Guatemala, where he had been deported after a 2003 rape conviction.
Alvarado was sentenced in May 2018 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy noted then that Alvarado would be entitled to a hearing in 25 years to determine whether he should be released on parole given that he was a juvenile at the time of the shootings.
“I personally don’t believe that you should ever be released,” the judge told the defendant, calling him a “violent, heartless individual whose character is set.”
The judge said she believed that LAPD personnel “failed miserably in performing their duties” during the initial investigation into the killings.
“I think part of the reason is institutional racism and indifference,” she said, noting that she did not believe the killings were investigated in the same way as if the victims were from an affluent white family.
She also criticized the testimony of a deputy medical examiner who conducted the initial autopsy on Renzo Alvarado and initially classified it as a suicide.
“… I do know that a lot more should have been done,” Kennedy said, crediting LAPD Detective Mark Hahn — who was not the initial investigator — with doing the work required after Alvarado’s half-sister went to police.
Just before being sentenced, the defendant said through a Spanish interpreter, “I will get out because my faith in God is very big.”
During the trial, the prosecutor called it a “horrific crime.”
“An entire family was massacred on this day. Why were they killed? Because this defendant did not feel love and … killed the source of his pain — the people that did not love him,” the prosecutor said.
One of Alvarado’s attorneys cast doubt on the reliability of two of the prosecution’s key witnesses, including the defendant’s half-sister. He pointed to a detailed statement she made to detectives that she later said she didn’t remember and asked jurors to consider the notion of a “false memory.”
The defense also urged the jury to listen carefully to the 911 call made by Saulo Alvarado, saying the defendant deserved an Oscar if he was making up the story he told.
In his rebuttal argument, the prosecutor noted that evidence showed there was no gunshot residue on the 16-year-old’s hand and that the biomechanics and autopsy evidence were “inconsistent” with a murder-suicide.
“It was staged. The defendant planted that gun,” the prosecutor said.
A police detective initially opined that the crime was a murder-suicide and closed the case before receiving results of gunshot residue tests that showed Alvarado’s teenage half-brother did not have gunshot residue on either hand, according to a June 14 ruling from a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal upholding his conviction.