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Staff Writer

VAN NUYS -- Patricia Panameno counted each day toward justice in the brutal stabbing of her daughter and two granddaughters: five years, nine months, one week and three days.

On Wednesday, she got her wish.

A judge sentenced Julian Beltran to death for slitting the throats of his girlfriend and two young daughters.

"It's justice. Justice," declared Panemeno. "He made a choice -- and he got what he deserved. All the people who hurt babies, they deserve the same."

The estranged boyfriend and father had slain each family member in a fit of rage at their Sun Valley home in 2002. He then fled from the nearly decapitated remains, dialed 911 in a cry of remorse and begged to end his life in a "suicide by cop."

During his tear-filled sentencing in Van Nuys Superior Court, attorneys and relatives either begged for clemency or demanded the ultimate sentence. Beltran, sobbing, murmured a plea for mercy.

"Your honor, I have caused a lot of pain," said the 33-year-old truck driver from Anaheim, his hulking body shaking. "God, Father and Lord Jesus Christ, know that in my entire existence, I am sorry for what I did and all the pain I caused.

"I beg you to forgive me."

"I ask for clemency for my son," his mother, Dora Beltran, told the judge. "Please, do not give him the death penalty: There is no life in him left."

Beltran was convicted by a jury last year of capital murder for slaying his daughters, Marissa Beltran, 6, and Natalie Beltran, 2.

A mistrial was declared in the case of his girlfriend when the jury failed to decide between first- and second-degree murder. But early this year, Beltran pleaded no contest in the stabbing death of Mariana Michelle Barahona, 24, in exchange for a life sentence.

Jury recommended death

In the end, though, Judge Barry A. Taylor upheld the jury's recommendation that Beltran be put to death for killing his two young children.

"This is an extremely difficult decision this court has to make," Taylor said before condemning Beltran to San Quentin State Prison. "There is no more difficult decision."

It was on Jan. 23, 2002, that 200-pound Beltran, upset over the breakup of his family, returned home after a three-month separation.

Prosecutors argued that he'd bought a knife, beat Barahona and slashed her throat as she watched TV, nearly cutting off her head. Then, they said, he marched into the bedroom to kill his daughters.

Marissa, who was awake, suffered 14 knife wounds and four 9-inch cuts to her neck.

Her 22-pound sister likely died in her sleep, her throat sliced from ear to ear, two weeks before her 2nd birthday.

The long-haul trucker from El Salvador, who had met his girlfriend of eight years while she was in high school, ransacked the house before fleeing to Orange County and calling 911.

A bloody handprint, left by Marissa, hung on the wall above her bed.

Deputy District Attorney Andrea Thompson said it was because of the heinous stabbing of the children that Beltran deserved the death penalty.

"Nothing can overcome what that child went through, nothing," co- prosecutor Rose de Mattia told the judge. "The kid fought for her life against her father -- the man who loved her, who was supposed to protect her.

"He murdered her, and she knew it."

Beltran's public defenders argued that he deserved life without parole because he'd shown "profound remorse" by dialing 911, directing cops to the crime scene and trying to get himself killed.

Wanted to reconcile

He'd never before committed a crime, or any act of violence, and had always been an honest, dependable worker.

The day before the killings, Beltran had tried to obtain counseling to reunite his family after repeated separations. Then, in a wave of emotion, he snapped.

"This is a tragic case -- and the tragedy continues with the sentence," said his attorney, Joel C. Koury, after Wednesday's hearing. "Julian Beltran has tried to commit suicide four times; he is as remorseful as anyone I've ever seen. No one gains by this death sentence."

One Catholic nun who visited Beltran numerous times in jail said he could not forgive himself. She said that, in his own twisted way, he wished to unite his family in heaven.

"I know why he did it," Sister Patricia Geoghegan of the Daughters of Chastity of St. Vincent de Paul said after the sentencing. "He wanted to be with them in eternity. His motivation wasn't to inflict pain on people; it was to reunite his family."

Panameno, joined by her daughter and son, said their lives were irreparably harmed.

"He didn't appreciate those kids' lives," the grandmother from Sherman Oaks told the judge. "He destroyed me and my family. We shall always live in pain. I buy them flowers, asking, 'Why not a dress or pair of sandals?' This will not end today. This will stay with us forever."


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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 4, 2007

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