WASECA (AP) -- Lorenzo Sanchez apologized Tuesday to the family of the 12-year-old girl he murdered, saying he understands their pain and asking for their forgiveness.
Sanchez was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, a day after he entered a surprise guilty plea to killing Cally Jo Larson in April 1999.
Cally Jo was slain in her home after school. She had been sexually assaulted, stabbed in the chest and left hanging by her neck. Her 16-year-old sister, Jayme, found her body.
Sanchez displayed little emotion as he spoke in Spanish through an interpreter Tuesday, but said he hopes the Larsons will forgive him someday.
"I know I have no forgiveness from you, your husband or your family," Sanchez told the girl's mother, Connie Larson. "I know I should pay for this with my life. If I had something to take my life away, I would take it."
The mother and other family members told the court how they had been hurt and hardened by the crime.
"I can't even stay home alone in my own house," Jayme Larson said. "My life will not be the same."
At least, she said, Sanchez won't be able to hurt anyone again.
"He will do nothing to me or to society or to the world," Jayme Larson said. "I know he will pay for his crime for the rest of his life, while the rest of us will get to enjoy the everyday pleasures of life."
As part of the plea agreement, four charges -- including criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping -- were dropped. In return, he escaped a sentence of life without parole, meaning he might eventually go free.
Sanchez will not be eligible for parole until February 2030. He is expected to eventually serve his time in or near Texas, closer to his family. He is also serving a four-year sentence for a prior burglary conviction. It will run concurrently.
Judge Lawrence Collins said that because Sanchez, a Mexican citizen, is in the United States illegally, the question of where he would go if paroled will rest with the federal government.
After the sentencing, Miguel Sanchez told reporters that he doesn't think that his brother committed the crime and that he confessed only because he was depressed and wanted to get the matter over with.
Outside the courthouse, surrounded by family and friends, Connie Larson said she didn't know how she could forgive Lorenzo Sanchez. She said they had been through "two years of loss, of sorrow, of longing and waiting" for justice.
"Something as precious as a child was taken from me, very violently, by a very evil man who followed very evil ways," she said.
But the mother also said she is trying to move on.
"I'm done," she said. "I've been angry for two years. There's a lot of anger that will always be there, but I think we can direct it in ways that will make a difference."
And she said she hopes she'll be able feel her daughter's presence once again.
"I want to find Cally again," she said. "She's been lost for me for two years. And I try to grab onto her and she's not there. I think she'll be there now, because I honestly want to lay this down and walk away from it."
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