BUFFALO, N.Y. – A murderer who lived a double life as a friendly family man and western New York's "Bike Path Rapist" was sentenced Tuesday to the maximum 75 years to life in prison.
"Whatever sentence I get today I deserve," Altemio Sanchez, 49, said in state Supreme Court. He apologized to relatives of his victims, who pleaded for Judge Christopher Burns to lock him away for life.
The factory worker and father of two pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder in the strangulation deaths of three women since 1990, including two whose bodies were found on bike paths. He has admitted raping between 13 and 20 women since the early 1980s, his lawyer said.
Sanchez cannot be prosecuted for any of the rapes because too much time has passed.
Prosecutor Frank Sedita described Sanchez as a cold-blooded and calculating criminal who conducted reconnaissance before his attacks "and even practiced his signature double ligature." Sanchez wrapped wire around his victims' necks to control and kill them, leaving unconscious some of those who survived.
"He is as calculating as he is violent," the assistant district attorney said.
Sanchez's wife of 26 years, Kathleen, watched the sentencing in a crowded courtroom, frequently covering her eyes with her hand and crying quietly. She has said she knew nothing of her husband's crimes.
"This man led one half of his life that was very appropriate," defense attorney Andrew LoTempio said after the sentencing. "I really believe there was a part of him that hates the other part of him."
Sanchez admitted killing University at Buffalo student Linda Yalem, 22, who was raped and strangled on a bike path near campus in 1990; Majane Mazur, 32, found raped and strangled on a Buffalo street two years later, and Joan Diver, 45, strangled along a suburban bike path last fall.
Prosecutors have linked him by DNA to at least eight other attacks, including two for which another man, Anthony Capozzi, served 22 years in prison. Capozzi was freed in April.
Yalem's sister, Ann Brown, said she is still tortured by the image of her younger sister's lifeless body when she was found, with duct tape over her mouth and nose, her T-shirt pulled up around her head and her pants pulled down.
Yalem had just completed a newspaper internship and was training to run the 1990 New York City Marathon when she was killed.
"Every time I see sisters together, I feel pain," Brown said.
Diver's husband, Steven, described his wife as a devoted mother to their four children, ages 15, 13, 10 and 5, who had been looking forward to returning to work as a critical care nurse when their youngest begins school next month.
His wife's neck, he said, "looked like it had been slit" from the force Sanchez used to tighten the wire, and her face was swollen from being beaten.
"He takes evil pleasure in killing women. He strangled Joan with a steel cord in a brutal act of violence," said Diver, a university professor.
"I know I cannot bring back your loved ones," Sanchez said to Diver and Brown without looking at them, "but what you said today here in court was true about me."
The judge said he did not believe Sanchez felt any remorse. "You showed (victims) no mercy and you deserve none," Burns said.