Maria Ceja and Jose Velarde get maximum sentence in murder, kidnapping case


The judge showed no sympathy towards the two defendants convicted of kidnapping and murder, as he handed down the maximum sentence. He said he has never come across such a twisted inhumane case.

Co-defendants Maria Ceja and Jose Velarde walked into this Merced County courtroom Friday morning to hear their fate. But before the judge read the verdict he court heard from some of victim's family members.

"No words can describe the pain, the emptiness we'll always have," Rodolfo Diaz the victim's brother said

Rodolfo Diaz 's sister Ana Diaz De Ceja was murdered more than 3 years ago. The defendants were convicted of killing Ana and then kidnapping her 2-month-old baby.

Surveillance video showed the defendants' hours after the murder buying diapers for a baby that was not theirs. The infant was later abandoned in front of a house.

"It angers us to be in the same room with these two killers who do not even deserve to be in our presence," Diaz said. "We hope Jose and Teresa rot in jail for the rest of their miserable lives."

A remorseful Ceja also had the chance to speak through her attorney.

"I feel really bad for the victim's family, especially for her children. I think I should go to prison for a long time, but not my whole life," Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Ceja's Defense Attorney said.

But the judge didn't see it that way.

Ceja will spend the rest of her life in prison while Velarde will serve 27 years to life.

"We believe the sentence is appropriate. We believe both of these defendants perpetrated a crime that is rare in the scale of evil," Larry Morse, Merced Co. District Attorney said.

And while Ana's family was there to get some closure so was a woman who served on the jury that convicted Ceja.

"I wanted to see the closure for the family and I needed closure for myself. When you invest so much time in it and you hear the whole story, you need to know what the outcome is," Ray Ann Smith-Jarvis a juror said.

It was an emotional day for the family Action News spoke with the victim's husband who said he was pleased with the outcome, but his kids miss their mother.

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