A judge gave Richard Freeman Jr. the “glimmer of hope” he asked for Wednesday when she sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in two 2010 murders.
But District Judge Carolyn Ellsworth said she expects the defendant to be “a very old man” when, if ever, he is released from prison.
Freeman, 22, must serve at least 56 years before officials may consider granting him parole. He already has spent more than three years behind bars since his arrest in the case.
Denise Espitia, sister of victim Prisma Contreras, had no doubt about Freeman’s fate after sitting through the sentencing hearing.
“I know he’s never getting out, no matter what,” she said outside the courtroom.
Freeman was 18 when he went on a crime spree with his older accomplice, Gregory Hover, in January 2010.
In May, a jury decided that Hover, 41, should be executed for his role in the two murders.
Espitia said her family will live with the pain forever, but “I know that at least justice was served in both cases.”
Hover was employed as a process server when he kidnapped the woman’s 21-year-old sister from a parking lot on East Tropicana Avenue. He proceeded to rape, stab and strangle her.
The young mother’s body was found in a burned-out car south of Boulder City on Jan. 15, 2010.
Hover also was convicted of fatally shooting 64-year-old Julio Romero during a robbery on Jan. 25, 2010.
Authorities said Hover, who worked for Junes Legal Service, had visited Romero’s home to serve legal papers. Early the next morning, Hover forced his way into the home, killed Romero and shot Romero’s wife, Roberta, who survived.
By pleading guilty in April to two counts of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon, Freeman ensured that he would not join his co-defendant on death row.
Earlier this year, Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said Freeman had acted as Hover’s co-conspirator and driver but did not participate in the acts of violence.
On Wednesday, DiGiacomo argued that Freeman was “as guilty” as Hover and urged the judge to deny him the chance for parole.
The prosecutor also noted that “disturbing” images of child pornography were found on Freeman’s computer.
Standing in the courtroom Wednesday, Freeman spoke softly as he offered his apologies to the victims’ families, the court and his own family.
“I do understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.
He said his drug use contributed to his behavior but does not excuse it.
Freeman asked the judge for a “glimmer of hope” that he might someday be released from prison.
Defense attorney Kristina Wildeveld said Freeman, who was teased and bullied as a child because he was severely overweight, was barely an adult when he helped commit the crimes.
She also said evidence suggested Freeman remained outside the Romero home while Hover was inside.
In sentencing Freeman, Ellsworth expressed her belief that he was influenced by his older accomplice.
The judge also said she expects Hover to die in prison before he finishes the lengthy process of appealing his death sentence.
Ellsworth said she chose to give Freeman the hope of parole because she did not want him to receive the same punishment as Hover.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710.