FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A convicted killer lost his last-ditch attempt to throw out his conviction Wednesday.
The former Table Mountain tribal member killed 23-year-old Justin Garza over a $30,000 debt to strippers.
Garza's family focused on faith and forgiveness on the day of sentencing. They're leaning on their faith, but forgiveness isn't coming easily.
Justin Garza's family remembers him as a character with perfectly white teeth and a joke always apparently on the tip of his tongue.
"He was a goofball," said his uncle, Robert Miranda. "He loved to have fun. He loved to put a smile on everyone's face. That's one thing we'll truly miss about Justin."
Garza was just 23 years old and working as a driver for exotic dancers when Randy Jones killed him in 2019.
Garza had tried to collect a debt of more than $30,000 in stripper fees when Jones shot him at a Motel 6 on Blackstone in central Fresno.
His mother said his life was a precious gift from God taken away by Jones.
"Forgiveness for you?" Sarah Garza contemplated. "I would feel like I'm betraying Justin. I know God says we should forgive but right now, I'm not there. So much heartache, crying, sorrow, hurt, and left with emptiness."
A pastor speaking for Jones called him "kind and generous", but said drug and alcohol addiction led him down a dark path.
"I believe it is a very big part of this situation here," said Pastor Michael Alarcon of Sacred Landmark Missionary Baptist Church.
Garza's family members didn't accept the characterization from Jones' loved ones of the murder being "a mistake."
They say there's no justice for them on earth because Justin can't come back. But they're expecting to see him in heaven.
In the meantime, they're hoping to help other families in similar situations and trying to put Jones in the past.
"I'm just praying, Jones, that as you sit there, that you will seek God," said Justin's grandmother, Esther Garza. "Seek and ask for forgiveness."
The judge sentenced Jones to 50 years to life after rejecting his attempt to tear up the plea he signed.
Jones said he didn't understand what he was signing.
The judge said he went over everything in great detail with Jones.