LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A man who murdered his estranged wife — whose badly burned body was discovered at a homeless encampment in Granada Hills — was sentenced today to 26 years to life in state prison.

“I have no doubt that you killed her,” Superior Court Judge Eleanor J. Hunter told Hector Veloz, who was found guilty May 2 of first-degree murder for Sandra Velasco’s June 2017 slaying.

The judge told the 51-year-old defendant that he covered up his crime, “kept up the charade” and in the “ultimate insult” burned the 52-year-old woman’s body beyond recognition.

“The way you treated your wife was despicable,” Hunter said.

The judge rejected the defense’s request to reduce Veloz’s conviction from first-degree murder to second-degree murder.

Along with the murder charge, jurors found that Veloz personally used a knife in the attack against his wife of two years.

The coroner’s office could not determine how the woman died, but the prosecution believes she was stabbed, given the discovery of a knife with the victim’s blood on it and a large amount of blood in the back seat of her car, according to Deputy District Attorney John McKinney. She had also suffered blunt force trauma resulting in a skull fracture, according to the prosecutor.

In his closing argument, the deputy district attorney told jurors that the victim had changed the locks on her Panorama City home just over a week after an incident of domestic violence involving Veloz and that she was last seen on June 18, 2017, at a storage unit where she was trying to drop off clothing he had requested.

“This was a brutal killing that went on for some time,” the prosecutor told jurors.

The woman’s body was dumped near a gas station and found two days later following a fire, and she was originally listed as a “Jane Doe” because her body was so badly burned, McKinney said. A good Samaritan subsequently found her belongings, including a criminal protective order, in another location, and two of the woman’s adult children found her car in a Target parking lot near the storage facility, according to the prosecutor.

Of his then-missing wife, Veloz told his aunt that he wanted to get his wife’s benefits through the U.S. Postal Service, where she was a longtime employee, McKinney told jurors.

“He’s a cold, calculated killer,” the prosecutor said last week, calling the evidence against the defendant “extremely powerful.”

Defense attorney Justine Esack countered that jurors should acquit her client.

“I am not here to tell you that he is a man of good character,” she said, noting that the jury had heard “appalling things” Veloz said after his wife’s death.

Those statements didn’t “prove what his state of mind was when Sandra died in that hallway,” the defense attorney told the panel.

“They chose to say that this was intentional,” Esack said. “They chose to ignore the injuries to him. They chose to ignore the dynamics of this relationship.”

Veloz’s attorney alleged that the woman’s two adult daughters — who both work in law enforcement — had a hand in trying to guide the case and that it affected how law enforcement looked at the case.

But she argued that the prosecution had failed to prove the elements of murder.

One of the victim’s daughters, Melissa Navarro, told the judge that the only mistake her mother made was “trusting this man” who “ultimately took her life.”

“You are despicable and a burden upon society,” she told the defendant, saying she hopes he will be haunted by his actions.

Another of the victim’s daughters, Maria Navarro, said Veloz had “brutally murdered my innocent, unsuspecting mother and tortured her lifeless body.”

A sister of the defendant also spoke in court, telling her brother, “I love you immensely and that will never change.”

“I love you,” Veloz responded, again repeating the comment as he was led out of the downtown Los Angeles courtroom after being sentenced.

One reply on “Man Sentenced to 26 Years to Life for Estranged Wife’s Murder”

  1. I was at the hearing on Thursday, Aug 11, 2022. Two thirds of this report is from a City News Service article dated May 2, 2022 (updated 5/3/22). There are facts in hard evidence, there is fiction in the defense’s allegations. Here’s more to the story.

    After Judge Hunter dismissed the defense’s baseless motion for a retrial, she poignantly compared the actions of the defendant, the victim’s own husband, to the character of the good Samaritan, the transient man who never met Sandra, yet selflessly turned in her bag with valuables intact, and no thought of reward. His action was significant.

    Sandra’s daughter, Maria, revealed how she ‘was at the police station for the first time as a victim instead of a police officer.’ She feared not only for her mother, but also for her widowed grandfather, and moved him in with her. She and her sister Melissa shared their pain over the loss of their mother, their family’s suffering, and their younger brother’s loss. He joined the military. He saw the defendant kill his mother’s beloved dog. My friend told me that, too. She was close to Sandra, I was not.

    In September 2016, Sandra was such a radiant new member of our church that I was drawn in to welcome her husband the first time he came in October. I offered a handshake, he suddenly grabbed me in a bear hug, lifted me off the ground, and tried kissing me. I was helpless, yet coolly responded, “Oh, Hawaiian style!” Thank God this big man put me down. I was shocked as I looked at Sandra, poised and calm, with a gentle smile. He must be joking… Well, I’m not some little church lady, I’m a proud construction worker, and a veteran. I’ve worked with hundreds of men though never harassed like that.

    The first Sunday of November was open mic, and the defendant went to the podium subdued. He said his parents joined our church when he was a teenager. But, he was a drug addict just out of rehab before we met. Sandra had filed for divorce in June. I regret not reporting his erratic behavior to our bishop. I regret not doing more. I was away – back & forth as my dad faded until I returned from his memorial in June 2017. The Sunday after was the first I learned of Sandra’s distress, and the last time I saw her. I blurted out he’s dangerous, and she needed to protect herself. She rear ended a car, and had to rent one.

    Sandra’s absence from church on Father’s Day was suspicious not just because her husband showed up alone, but also because she said she would be there. He left after meeting with the bishop who sent members to go to her apartment. Bishop also called on my friend and I to go there. The defendant’s pit bull was barking fiercely inside Sandra’s window. A neighbor told me he saw the defendant pull up on his motorcycle a few days prior, try to enter her apartment, but couldn’t and left. Of course, Sandra wasn’t there when the cops entered hours later. We hoped, and prayed even as days passed by.

    Being on the witness list, I was reluctant to testify, and relieved not to do so. I was destined to face my fear at this hearing, to raise my voice online. The public deserves to be protected from this impulsive, violent man who lacks empathy and remorse, who manipulates selfishly, and only feels self-pity. I pity his sister in her proclamation of loyalty. I saw the charred black brush behind the gas station, beside the Balboa exit of the 118 freeway where Sandra’s body was recovered. The area is barren now.

    After the hearing, Melissa’s heartfelt gratitude toward the four dedicated professionals who fought for justice for her mom was touching. Nearly 5 years ago Sandra’s body was buried. Hundreds of mourners gathered in a Catholic church for her funeral, in the church of her grieving family. They are strong, resilient, incredibly gracious. They are her glorious legacy. The case of the People vs Hector Veloz has been put to rest. In the court of public opinion, however, I could not remain silent.

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