An ex-convict from Sylmar who carried out a shooting rampage that left five people dead in the San Fernando Valley, including three on the same day, was sentenced Thursday to five consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.
Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus — who said Alexander Hernandez “should never be released” — also tacked on more than 483 years to life on Alexander Hernandez’s sentence.
“To call him evil seems inadequate,” the judge said, saying the defendant “went out to hunt people” and that the cruelty he exhibited “defies explanation.”
“You certainly have caused a lot of pain,” Marcus told the 42-year-old man as the lengthy sentencing hearing neared an end in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
Hernandez was convicted May 25 of first-degree murder for the 2014 slayings of Sergio Sanchez on March 14; Gilardo Morales on Aug. 21; and Gloria Tovar, Michael Planells and Mariana Franco on Aug. 24, along with 11 counts of attempted murder — the bulk of which occurred between Aug. 20, 2014 and Aug. 24, 2014.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during a drive-by shooting.
Hernandez was also convicted of eight counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle, two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon and one count of possession of ammunition by a felon.
Hernandez — who withdrew his not guilty by reason of insanity plea just before the trial — pleaded no contest before the trial began to three animal cruelty charges involving three dogs — two of which were killed — at the Pacoima home of a good Samaritan who testified that he had previously helped Hernandez jump-start his SUV.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dropped its bid for the death penalty for Hernandez in March 2021, just under four years after the prosecution announced it would seek capital punishment.
Shortly after being sworn into office, District Attorney George GascÃ³n issued a series of directives, including one that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.”
Elizabeth King, whose daughter was shot and seriously wounded, said of the defendant, “If I had my way, he would get the death penalty multiple times.”
King’s daughter, Nicole De La Mora, who was struck while on her way to work, called Hernandez “a murderer” and a “predator who took the lives of special people,” and said she wanted to thank “the heroes who stepped in to save my life.”
During the hearing, family members of the murder victims described eight years of pain and suffering without their loved ones.
Tovar’s sister, Maria Hortensia Mejia, said her sibling “did not deserve this because she could have done many great things,” especially for the elderly and those in need.
Morales’ niece, Nancy Payares, told the judge her uncle was “more than family to us” and was “the kind of man to help anyone.” She said she had been afraid that justice wouldn’t be done for him.
Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee told jurors in her final argument that they will probably never know why the crimes occurred. She told City News Service after the verdict that the attacks were “absolutely unprovoked.”
Most of the victims were driving — including home from prom or work, to church and en route to a fishing trip with their children on Father’s Day — when they noticed a vehicle following them or pulling up alongside.
In most of the cases, the vehicle was Hernandez’s Chevrolet Suburban, the prosecutor alleged at a hearing in 2016 in which the defendant was ordered to stand trial.
The SUV was identifiable by a hood that didn’t close properly, stickers of “a white skull” and “666” on the back of the vehicle, its custom six-spoked rims and other unique details, according to the prosecution, which also alleged that housing for a side-view mirror found at the Morales crime scene was matched to the Suburban.
Sanchez, 35, was found fatally shot inside his vehicle on a freeway off-ramp in Sylmar, while Morales, 48, was shot to death while in a vehicle in the Pacoima area.
Tovar, 59, was shot to death while in her car in Pacoima, waiting to pick up a friend to go to church.
Franco, 22, was with her parents and two siblings on their way to church when a gunman pulled up alongside in an SUV and said in Spanish either “I am going to kill you” or “I’m killing you” before shooting Franco in the head. Her mother and father were also struck by bullets, but survived.
Planells, 29, was shot that same day while standing in a parking lot in Sylmar.
Video surveillance footage showed someone in an SUV “shoot Mr. Planells and casually drive out of the parking lot,” the prosecutor said at a hearing in 2016.
Other shootings that were subsequently linked to the defendant included a May 14, 2014, drive-by attack that seriously injured a Chatsworth teenager who had just dropped his girlfriend at home following their high school prom and was waiting for a traffic light to change when a vehicle pulled alongside and a man shot him, according to the deputy district attorney.
Hernandez has remained jailed without bail since he was arrested after barricading himself for about an hour inside his Sylmar residence on Aug. 24, 2014.
He had prior convictions dating back to 2004 for possession for sale of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance while armed and possession of a firearm by a felon.