A West Valley man was sentenced to death Friday for the 2001 death of a 21-month-old girl.
The family of Juan Velazquez burst into sobs and wails and cried out "mijo" — Spanish for "my son" — as the verdict was read, ending a 12-week trial in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
Velazquez, 26, admitted to police he killed Liana Sandoval on Sept. 25, 2001, by continually sweeping her feet out from under her and causing her to strike her head against the floor.
Members of Liana’s family declined to speak, and Velazquez’s family was not available for comment.
Velazquez was the live-in boyfriend of Liana’s mother, Virginia Venegas, who is also charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.
Velazquez tied an 18-pound chunk of concrete to her with wire and threw her into a canal.
The murder also resulted in a $2.5 million judgment last month against the Department of Economic Security and two Child Protective Services caseworkers who were found negligent by a jury.
Jurors in the civil trial were told that the caseworkers concluded allegations that Velazquez was beating Liana and her 6-year-old sister were unsubstantiated.