Short sentence for men accused of murdering Sanger mom

FRESNO, Calif.

It was not the outcome prosecutors wanted, but they figure 15 years is better than nothing, and because of some serious complications with evidence, they weren't confident of getting any conviction at all. But for the victim's family, 15 years is nowhere near enough punishment.

Alexander Harwell and Lorenzo Sepulveda, Jr., are going to prison. The two men are accused of murdering Padilla in 2008, then leaving pieces of her body in multiple locations.

Padilla's brother says it's the worst violence he's ever seen -- and he's served three tours of duty in the War on Terrorism. He's disgusted that Harwell and Sepulveda will only serve 15 year prison sentences.

"I feel the judicial system here in California has failed me," said Danny Fernandez. "I really do. I go out there and defend our country and I'm proud to do it. But I defend terrorism over there, but terrorism happened in my own home."

The defendants avoided a murder trial by pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter after prosecutors realized they had several problems with evidence. The biggest was the execution-style murder of a key witness. Dan Kruser's body was found floating in the Colorado River while the defendants were awaiting trial.

"I think it was a difficult case to begin with, but it became more difficult with the loss of a witness," said prosecutor Mike Frye.

With possible credit for good behavior, Harwell and Sepulveda could get out of prison in less than ten years. To Padilla's family, that's not justice, and as their mother sobbed in the court hallway, Fernandez warned of what could happen when the killers get out.

"I think they'll both go back to their old selves and they'll do the same thing to some other woman," he said.

Maria Padilla dated Sepulveda off and on for several years before her death. Her mother tells Action News she has forgiven him, but she still wants an apology. She didn't get one Wednesday as both defendants chose not to make any comment in court.

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