ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Michael Astorga may have escaped death by lethal injection, but he couldn't escape tough words from the parents of the sheriff's deputy he murdered.
On Friday the convicted cop-killer received a life sentence after the 12-member jury could not agree unanimously on his execution.
"I'm accepting life and knowing he will never get out and hurt anyone else," Rita McGrane, the slain deputy's mother, told krqe news 13. "He's a killer, and he's where he belongs."
The sentence came six years after Astorga gunned down Bernalillo County Deputy James McGrane Jr. during a routine traffic stop on a dark highway near Tijeras. At the time Astorga was wanted for the murder of an ex-friend, Candido Martinez.
Astorga showed no emotion as the judge announced the jury's decision, which his lawyer said was by design.
"We've stressed time and time again with Michael not to show any emotion in the court room because it gets misinterpreted," Gary Mitchell said.
The life sentence is a disappointment for McGrane's parents although they accepted it with resignation.
"Just knowing he was on death row would have been my punishment to him," Rita McGrane said.
"He did not have any family members in there supporting him today," James McGrane Sr. said. "That's the way he's going to be a, lonely old man in prison. That's all I can say."
The McGranes are not the only ones with a personal stake in this case.
"It's something I will remember for the rest of my life," said Darren White, who was county sheriff at the time. "We knew when there was a change of venue that it was going to be tough to get a death penalty verdict.
"I look at it this way: the next time Astorga leaves the prison it will likely be in a body bag."
Astorga's trial began in Albuquerque with a separate jury convicting him of the murder. District Judge Neil Candelaria moved the sentence phase of the trial to Santa Fe after ruling the media coverage of the case would make seating an unbiased jury difficult in Bernalillo County.
The district attorney and Mitchell offered different views on the sentence.
"He will never walk the streets again," District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said. "That mission has been accomplished."
"I think we are a far more civilized state because of this," Mitchell said. "I do hope we all learn from this."
Astorga faces another 25 plus years when he's sentenced next month for murdering Martinez.
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