A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge sentenced a 41-year-old man to life in prison Tuesday for the first-degree murder of a Rosedale woman whom he struck with a pickup truck.
Jose Manuel Claros, who was convicted in October, did not admit to the crime at his sentencing. Instead, he blamed his victim and all but called her a liar.
Gloria Elsy Torres-Restrepo, 39, died Jan. 5 after Claros struck her with her own pickup truck after she had expressed her intent to end their business and personal relationship, take back the truck from him and evict him from a house she owned in Rosedale. Prosecutors and the woman's sisters, three of whom were in court for the hearing, said that for months, Claros had failed to pay rent on the house and insurance on the Dodge Ram truck, as he had initially agreed to do.
The court heard evidence that Claros deliberately drove the truck onto a sidewalk on which Torres-Restrepo was walking and struck her outside her home in the 1200 block of Neighbors Ave. The truck, which prosecutor Rachel Karceski said was traveling at about 50 mph, then careened out of control and crashed into a rowhouse.
In court for his sentencing before Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski, Claros, a native of Honduras, said in Spanish that he and Torres-Restrepo were saving for a down payment on a house in Miami and that "when she came to tell me there was no money, I knew there was." In any event, he said emphatically, "I never had any intention of hurting her."
The judge noted that Claros had shown no remorse for the crime during or after the trial.
Earlier in the hearing, prosecutor Charles R. Gayle said the defendant did not even pretend to render aid to the woman he had just run over and whom he "claims to love," and was "laughing and joking" when police officers responded to the incident. In a subsequent interview with police investigators, Claros showed no concern "for anyone but himself," Gayle said.
Although Claros will be eligible for a parole hearing in 15 years, Gayle said since it's a first-degree murder case, any release from prison would have to be approved by the governor - an extremely rare occurrence.
Torres-Restrepo, born in Colombia, was one of 10 children. She had intended to be a clothes designer, but after getting a U.S. visa through her mother, an American citizen, Torres-Restrepo moved to Baltimore in 2003 and got a job at Genesis Elder Care as a nurse's assistant.
"She found time to go to Essex Community College - her dream was to become a lawyer," one of the victim's sisters, Adiela Miklewski, said. She also got a real estate license and went into the business of buying and restoring houses, she said.