Leopoldo Pacuan, 51, was convicted of first-degree murder in the May 17, 2014, beating and stabbing death of 63-year-old Raquel Morales. Jurors found true a special circumstance that the murder was committed during a robbery.
"You will never suffer like she did, you will never suffer like we have. I hope your wife, your children, your mother and your family and your friends know what a monster you are,” said the victim's sister, Madonna Nocon. “The only thought that comforts me is that there’s a place called hell, and from the bottom of my heart I believe that’s where your true punishment will happen. Whatever sentence you receive today, it will never be enough or long enough for what you did to my sister."
Madonna Nocon said her sister had dreamed of returning to her native Philippines to retire. She said she still has nightmares about how her sibling died a "cruel and brutal death."
"My family has been devastated," Nocon said. "Leopoldo Pacuan not only killed Raquel but also a piece of all of us."
Ryan Alacon said his aunt was like a second mother to him. He noted that she was alone when she was murdered because she had sent a co-worker home so he could spend time with his family.
"I feel like a piece of my soul was ripped out of me," the victim's nephew said.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund said Pacuan was a danger to society and deserved to be locked up for the rest of his life for murdering Morales.
"She died in a horrific way," the prosecutor told Judge Timothy Walsh.
The judge said the murder was one of the most vicious and brutal killings he's ever seen.
During the trial, Maund told jurors that Morales' murder was a "crime of convenience" and "an inside job" at the business that catered to the Filipino community.
The prosecutor said Pacuan had worked at LBC Express in Mira Mesa in the past but had been out on disability leave with a shoulder injury since October 2013.
The night of the slaying, Pacuan waited for the store to close at 7 p.m. and called Morales to let him in the back door, Maund said.
Pacuan made a wire transfer at 7:15 p.m., then Morales began balancing her books, according to the prosecutor.
After Morales made a $10,000 "drop" into a safe that already contained $8,000 in cash, Pacuan got violent with the victim, beating, stomping and stabbing her at least nine times, the prosecutor said.
Morales' bloodied body was found in the business early the next morning.
When Pacuan couldn't get the money from Morales, he took her watch, wedding ring, purse and cell phone, according to the prosecutor.
Pacuan's DNA was found on a piece of latex under the victim's body, and he was arrested four days later. The defendant's watch also had the victim's blood on it.
Defense attorney Euketa Oliver claimed that a man who worked a couple of doors down from Morales and interacted with her the day of the murder was the real killer. He was subpoenaed to come to court but committed suicide before he could testify.