A Henrico judge sentenced Gregory Nelson Jr. to life in prison Thursday for the murder of Susana Cisneros.
Nelson took the stand and asked for forgiveness, however the judge sentenced him to the maximum possible penalty for the murder near Willow Lawn nearly two years ago.
Nelson asked for the family's forgiveness and broke down crying twice. He says he cannot explain why he killed her.
Susana Cisneros' family testified earlier Thursday, saying they still cry over their murdered loved one every day. Several family members took the stand during the sentencing hearing Thursday in Henrico, testifying about how difficult it has been since the death.
A niece said the week before Cisneros was killed, the family had held a baby shower for the boy she was going to name Christopher. Family members said she was ready to welcome him into the world and had purchased a crib, clothes and toys.
But Susana was murdered two weeks before she was supposed to give birth. Her boyfriend, Nelson Jr., pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October. She was nine months pregnant and when her brother couldn't find her two weeks from her due date, he panicked.
Police found her body near the Chipotle on West Broad Street where she worked with Nelson.
Prosecutors describe in detail the horrific attack Cisneros endured. They say she tried to get away, but Nelson kept coming after her and then he slashed her throat. Susana's younger sister, Maria Cisneros Ortiz, testified that she found the body and now her family feels guilty that they couldn't protect Susan. She said through a translator her heart felt like it was going to jump out of her chest because it was beating so hard when she found her sister's body. She also told the court that her mother still cries daily over the loss.
Commonwealth attorney Shannon Taylor believes that by focusing on the attack, the judge decided life in prison is the best punishment for Nelson.
Defense attorneys disagree.
"We're certainly disappointed there was a life sentence imposed but it was a very serious case and a very tragic case," says Clara Cardwell, Nelson's attorney.
Nelson's mother, Francine, told the court she was abused by Gregory's father, both verbally and physically. Gregory was witness to the acts of his father, who struggled with alcoholism.
A psychologist testified that Gregory can't channel his emotions properly and just snapped on that fateful day. His wife, Jennifer, had recently threatened to leave him when she found out about Susana and the pregnancy. Nelson told police during his arrest that he just 'snapped' and wished he could take that day back.
"I believed his remorse to be genuine but it's the reality of his actions and the responsibility he now has to take," says Taylor.
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