The man police said shot and killed 4-year-old Lilly Garcia during a road rage incident in 2015 pleaded Thursday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Tony Torrez, 33, was set to go to trial Monday on first-degree murder and lesser charges, but prosecutors offered a last minute plea deal which would cap his sentence at 16 years. Jury selection in the high-profile case was scheduled to start today.
If convicted at trial of every count, Torrez faced a mandatory life sentence plus 29 years, prosecutor Elisa Dimas said.
Wearing a bright orange MDC jumpsuit and shackles, Torrez took an Alford plea, where a defendant maintains innocence, but acknowledges that evidence in the case would support a conviction.
Torrez was driving a red car when he encountered Lilly’s father, Alan Garcia on westbound Interstate 40. The drivers engaged in an altercation, and “exchanged words,” police said, before Torrez opened fire. Lilly, who was riding in the backseat of her father’s truck, was struck in the back of the head and died at a local hospital.
“A bullet was fired from Torrez’s gun into the truck that was being driven by Alan Garcia,” prosecutor Elisa Dimas said. “That bullet went into the skull of Lilly Garcia, killing her.”
The hearing took place in courtroom packed full of family, friends, community members and media. Alan Garcia sat beside a large image of his grinning daughter dressed in pink. Her mother cradled a framed photograph as she cried quietly before the hearing began.
Following the completion of his sentence, Torrez must serve two years of parole.