INDIANAPOLIS – A judge said Friday he would give a sentence of life in prison without parole to a man convicted of killing three children and four adults inside their home during a robbery three years ago.
Defense attorneys for 31-year-old Desmond Turner did not call any witnesses during the sentencing hearing, but they continued to maintain their client's innocence in one of the worst mass murders in Indianapolis history.
Marion Superior Court Judge Robert Altice cited the shooting deaths of the children, ages 11 years old and younger, as among the reasons that Turner deserved the life sentence.
Altice found Turner guilty of seven counts of murder and other charges Thursday at the end of a nine-day trial. Turner waived his right to a jury trial in exchange for prosecutors dropping their request for the death penalty.
He is to be formally sentenced Nov. 20.
Killed in the June 1, 2006, attack at the home on the city's east side were Emma Valdez, 46; her husband, Alberto Covarrubias, 56; the couple's young sons, Alberto, 11, and David, 8; and Valdez's adult son and daughter, Magno Albarran, 29, and Flora Albarran, 22, and Flora's son Luis, 5.
Prosecutors say Turner and co-defendant James Stewart went to the house in a quest for drugs and cash that didn't exist. Stewart has pleaded not guilty to murder charges; his trial is set for Nov. 30.
Emma Valdez's sister, Maria Flores of Indianapolis, said Friday that Turner's conviction and life sentence were great news.
"At least we were able to sleep better last night," she said. "A lot of weight off of our shoulders."
Defense attorney Brent Westerfeld said an appeal was planned.
"Our client is innocent. He did not commit these crimes," he said after the hearing. "The people who committed this crime are not in that courtroom."
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he believed the conviction would stand even though investigators found no physical evidence linking Turner to the crime scene.
"If the judge thought there was residual doubt, he wouldn't have found him guilty of all 23 counts," Brizzi said. "So now, this monster will spend the rest of his life behind bars, which is where he belongs."