Family members of five victims in the Phoenix area's Baseline Killer case sobbed with emotion as they spoke in court Wednesday of the impact of their loved ones' deaths.
The relatives addressed the 12 jurors who are considering whether to sentence Mark Goudeau, 47, to death or life in prison. They included a mother whose daughter was killed a mere two months after moving away from home to a husband whose wife gave birth to twin sons four months before she was murdered.
The same jurors last week convicted Goudeau of nine counts of murder and 58 other crimes in the Baseline Killer case. They also found that he's eligible to get the death penalty after prosecutors argued that the murder victims died in an especially cruel way.
The mother and a sister of the Baseline Killer's first victim, 19-year-old Georgia Thompson, traveled from their hometown of Post Falls, Idaho, to speak to the jury.
Her mother, Rebecca Thompson, told the jury that she last saw her daughter just six days before she was killed. She had dropped her off in Tempe after a road trip to visit her grandparents in Texas.
"My heart was heavy leaving her alone in Arizona," she said.
When she got the news back in Idaho that her daughter was murdered, Thompson said that "a part of me began to die."
"I kept thinking they made a mistake. Not my baby," she said amid sobs. "I didn't want her out of my site and now I have to wait an eternity to see her again."
Thompson's body was found in a Tempe parking lot on Sept. 9, 2005, a bullet to her head, an arm across her eyes and keys still in her hand. Like most of the other victims, her pants had been unzipped. As her family tearfully spoke, prosecutors showed photos of the beautiful freckle-faced girl with thick brown hair and sparkling blue eyes.
All of Wednesday's hearing was dedicated to giving the family members of victims the chance to tell jurors how they've been affected by the murders. Their stories are expected to continue Thursday.
Goudeau's attorneys are arguing for a life sentence and are expected to present jurors with two experts who will testify that aspects of Goudeau's life make him worthy of mercy and a life sentence.
Goudeau already is serving a 438-year prison sentence stemming from the 2005 rape of a woman while he held a gun to her pregnant sister's belly. He only became eligible for the death penalty with the recent murder convictions.
Juana Sanchez, whose 20-year-old daughter, Liliana Sanchez, was killed after her first day of working at a fast-food restaurant, was in court Wednesday and wrote a letter to the jurors, which was read to them by another family member.
"If I could just rip out my heart and put it in my hand to show you my great pain," she wrote in Spanish. "Living without Liliana is the most painful thing my family has gone through."
Sanchez said it's difficult to go on living without her daughter, and that she and her husband and sons no longer celebrate birthdays or holidays because she can't be there with them.
"I remember the day I gave birth to her. Such a tiny thing, so tender," she said. "I had so many dreams for her, but when I see her pictures I wonder what would she be like today ... I never imagined that life would give me so much pain."
Alvin Hogue told jurors that he lost a best friend, a lover and the mother of his 4-month-old twin boys the day his wife, 38-year-old Romelia Vargas, was murdered.
As he spoke prosecutors displayed photos of Vargas holding the babies in the hospital room.
"They will never know their mother," Hogue said through tears.
Goudeau's attorney, Rod Carter, addressed jurors before the family members did, telling them that he was confident they would agree with him that Goudeau deserves a life sentence rather than the death penalty.
"Mark Goudeau is still a man with a family," he said. "He's a brother, he's an uncle, he's a cousin, he's a friend."
Prosecutor Suzanne Cohen told the jury that no argument exists to convince them to sentence Goudeau to life, calling him a wolf in sheep's clothing who killed victims who didn't comply with his sexual demands.
"He chose to execute nine people because he didn't get what he wanted: sex, power, control," she said. "The death penalty is the appropriate punishment."