CROWN POINT — Jovanni Torres was sentenced to 70 years in prison Friday for the murder of his girlfriend Aimee Giro, a part-time waitress and Indiana University Northwest student described by friends and family as vivacious, generous and tender-hearted.
Judge Salvador Vasquez sentenced Torres to 60 years for the murder and an additional 10 years for using a firearm in the commission of the offense. Torres, 32, will serve a minimum of 52 years in prison for the crime if he earns good behavior credit in prison.
“With your age, you likely won't see the light of day,” Vasquez said. “And I think that is appropriate in a civilized society.”
Defense attorney Larry Rogers said Torres maintained his innocence. Torres declined to speak at the hearing.
Giro, 26, joined several friends Sept. 30, 2016, at the bachelorette party for her best friend, Jaclyn Havens, according to testimony from Torres' trial. The women traveled that night to a two-story night club in Chicago, returning during the early morning hours to Havens' home.
Giro was taken by another friend to Torres' home, where she stayed when she wasn't at her father's place. Friends and coworkers testified there were signs Torres abused Giro, but they remained a couple.
Giro was not seen for several days after that night, and she did not respond to phone messages. Juan Giro, the victim's father, went with two friends Oct. 5, 2016, to Torres' home in the 2700 block of New Hampshire Street in Lake Station. He testified he saw flies on the home's door and windows and smelled something rotten.
Torres denied he had seen Giro and refused police entry into his home. Officers obtained a search warrant and found the woman's body sprawled next to Torres' bed. She was shot in the head and lower back.
Deborah Jones, Havens' mother, read two letters at Friday's sentencing hearing. She said she loved Giro like her own daughter. Giro had a seat at the family's dinner table and would announce her arrival at Jones' home by knocking on the door and yelling, “Holla!”
The part-time waitress and Indiana University Northwest student was vivacious, tender-hearted and high-spirited, Jones said. She was to serve as the maid of honor the month of her death at Havens' wedding.
Havens still married, but Jones said her new son-in-law called and reported his wife suffered such grief, she had not eaten, drank or showered for five days.
“What you did is unspeakable,” Jones told Torres. “We treat our animals better.”
Jones tried to sum up the cost of Giro's death. Giro would never wear a graduation cap. She would never wear a bridal veil. She would never kiss her newborn baby, and she would never put the star on her family's Christmas tree. She won't be able to attend to her father on his death bed.
“I pray she knows what she meant to our family,” Jones said.
Juan Giro said his daughter wanted to enter the medical field to help others. A Cuban immigrant, he said he was thankful for the justice system, but he lamented his daughter's absence.
J.C. Giro, Aimee's brother, said in a letter read to the judge his sister was taken by “a monster.” He said Giro was his best friend and he felt responsible for failing to protect her.
“Aimee was a beacon of light, in my life and so many others,” he wrote.
Deputy Prosecutor Maryam Afshar said Torres was a “controlling, jealous, evil person.” She said Torres had 13 prior contacts with police and six pending criminal cases at the time of the murder.
Yvette Torres, the defendant's mother, said her son was shot seven times in Gary in 2007, which caused a significant change in his behavior. She said he became depressed and suffered mental health issues. He also became addicted to pain medication.
“He is a very loving person,” she said. “What happened? I don't know.”
She said her son became paranoid after the shooting. She revealed in cross-examination by Supervisory Prosecutor Aleksandra Dimitrijevic that Torres returned fire during the 2007 shooting, killing another person. She denied it was a gang-related shooting.
Rogers said Torres would appeal his conviction. He said he was Torres' attorney before the 2007 shooting and afterward, and he noticed a difference in his client's mental faculties.