Visalia man sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murdering girlfriend

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Visalia man will be sent to state prison, more than three years after he killed his girlfriend.

In 2016, prosecutors charged 35-year-old Andres Ybarra with first-degree murder and the special circumstance of torture.

This year, jurors convicted him of second-degree murder.

Ruby Lopez's sister thanked everyone who worked on the case and told the judge she wanted justice for her sister.

The judge then sentenced Ybarra to 15 years to life in prison.

Amelia Lopez was 16 when her older sister Ruby was murdered by her boyfriend Andres Ybarra in the summer of 2016.

During Monday's sentencing, she said Ruby was more than a victim.

She was a sister, daughter, and mother, sharing a child with Ybarra.

"Now, my nephew will grow up without a mother. And that is something I did not want for him. He's only a baby. And I want him to know nothing but love and not to learn that his mom was taken by hate in this world," says Lopez.

On July 1, 2016, The Tulare County District Attorney's Office says Ybarra beat and strangled Lopez to death after finding her under the influence of drugs while caring for their son.

She had many internal injuries, including broken ribs, lacerations to her liver, and bleeding in her neck and head.

"Even their own experts said that she wouldn't have survived her injuries and that these could not possibly be from anything other than - I think non-accidental trauma was the testimony," says District Attorney David Alavezos.

Defense attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt says his client has maintained his innocence all along and had no reason to want Lopez dead.

And because Visalia Police didn't protect the scene, he says all kinds of potential evidence, including DNA evidence, was lost.

He says nearby trash cans had already been emptied by the time police searched them several days after her death.

"They tried to go back and treat it like a homicide scene five days later, but by then, the scene's been contaminated," says Ybarra's attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt.

Hammerschmidt thinks there's a good chance the case will be retried.

But prosecutors believe Lopez's family members can find closure in the conviction.

On Monday, the judge rejected Ybarra's motion for a new trial.

But his attorneys say they will soon file a notice of appeal with the 5th District Court of Appeal.
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