Marc Anthony Colon is the boyfriend accused of killing his girlfriend’s daughter because the toddler caused too much drama in their lives.
Gladys Perez is the insecure, emotionally needy mother accused of helping her boyfriend cover up the murder in Las Vegas.
On Wednesday, a Clark County District Court jury found them both guilty of killing 3-year-old Crystal Figueroa, also known as Jane "Cordova" Doe, and dumping her body in a trash bin in 2006.
Today the jury will begin hearing testimony on whether Colon, 30, should be executed for the crime.
The jury will also decide if Gladys Perez, 26, should spend the rest of her life behind bars without the chance of parole.
Perez and Colon stood in court next to their attorneys when the verdicts were read. Perez wept silently while Colon remained stoic.
After the guilty verdicts were delivered, Perez sat down in a chair and put her head in her hands.
District Judge Michelle Leavitt ordered Colon and Perez to be placed in shackles at the end of the hearing.
Colon and Perez have been in custody at the Clark County Detention Center since their arrests in 2006; but authorities allowed them to remain unshackled during their trial, which lasted almost three weeks.
Because the penalty phase of the trial is continuing today, attorneys on all sides wouldn’t comment on the verdicts.
The jury found Colon guilty of first-degree murder and child abuse.
It found Perez guilty of first-degree murder, child abuse and child neglect.
Prosecutors charged Perez with neglect because Crystal showed the beginning stages of malnutrition when she was found beaten to death in a trash bin at the Villa Cordova Apartments in January 2006.
It took the jury about six hours over two days to reach a verdict.
Norma Chavez, a friend of Perez, said she believed Perez was innocent. Chavez said Perez was the victim of domestic violence and wasn’t responsible for killing Crystal.
Chavez met Perez in 2006 while serving time in the county jail for violating a protective order. She said other inmates targeted Perez for abuse because she was accused of killing her own daughter.
Chavez also said Perez was often grieving for Crystal.
"There wasn’t one night that she didn’t cry for Crystal," said Chavez, 36, who attended one day of the trial.
Colon had beaten Perez until she was a "whipped dog," said Tim O’Brien, one of Perez’s deputy public defenders, during the trial.
He said Perez, who worked at a pool company and was pregnant at 15, was helpless to protect her daughter because Colon had so much physical and emotional power over her.
Defense attorneys for Colon painted a different picture.
Colon attorney Chris Oram said Perez killed Crystal in a fit of jealous rage after she realized Colon was with another woman.
"It was her. It was her," Oram said of Perez during his closing argument. "Ms. Perez is a wolf."
Authorities said the couple came to Las Vegas from California in early January 2006 on their way to start a new life in Oregon.
While staying at a pay-by-the-week apartment, Colon beat Crystal, prosecutors said. She died from blunt force trauma to her torso. Authorities said Crystal had bruises over much of her body, fractured ribs and internal injuries.
Perez did nothing to stop the abuse because she was in love with Colon, said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli during his closing arguments.
The couple left Crystal’s broken body dressed in a white jacket with pink hearts in a trash bin, where she was found by a man scrounging for used electronics.
A nationwide search for information about Crystal’s identity went on for weeks.
At the time, no one knew who she was or how she ended up dead in a trash bin. Tips poured in from across the nation, Canada and Mexico.
Police broke the case after Perez’s mother reported to police that Crystal might be her granddaughter.
Six weeks after Crystal was found dead, authorities announced they had arrested Perez and Colon and identified Crystal.
"Crystal Figueroa did not have a chance," Chief Deputy District Attorney Pam Weckerly said during trial.
Contact reporter David Kihara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.Slideshow Past news coverage