On Monday, the long-awaited day that no father should ever have to hope for finally came for Mark Desmond. It was the day he addressed his daughter’s killer.
Desmond, 54, the father of popular Manhattan Beach bartender Cori Desmond, read a prepared statement to the court Monday in the sentencing hearing of theRedondo Beachman convicted of murdering her on Valentine’s Day 2009.
The muscular, broad shouldered man struggled at times, too overcome by tears.
Mark Desmond Statement
“Cori was charismatic, trusting to a fault, outspoken,” Desmond said. “Her laughter was unforgettable. And so was she.”
Judge David Mazurek sentenced Tony Lopez Perez to 25 years to life in prison. Perez, 36, was convicted last month of first-degree murder. Based on the injuries to her body, prosecutors alleged Perez attacked Desmond and tried to rape her on aNorth Redondoside street in the early morning hours of February 15, 2009. He ended up strangling her.
The Mira Costa graduate said it was an accident when he killed Desmond. He admitted to driving around with her body for a day and later dumping the body in theSan Bernardino Mountains. His attorney plans to file an appeal.
Mark Desmond called Perez a liar, a rapist, a murderer and a pathetic disgrace. He said he thought the conviction would make losing Cori a little easier, but it did not.
“That was the day I realized our sadness and anguish are here to stay for a lifetime,” he told the court.
Desmond and the others who testified Monday read their remarks from behind Perez, who sat just a few feet away in green prison garb, restrained by wrist and ankle chains. He mostly gazed blankly toward the floor as he did through much of the weeklong trial. Later, during a slideshow of photos from Cori’s life, Perez barely glanced toward the screen.
Perez, who chose not to testify at the trial, made his first statements to the court Monday. He looked down at the page and spoke in a monotone voice with little emotion. He said he was taught to love and respect those around him, but that he “veered off course at times.”
Tony Perez Statement
“I forgot the key lessons I was taught about life, which make me a man, a father, a loving uncle to many and a responsible person who supports his family that I so love,” Perez said. “In the end I fell short.”
He generally stuck to the story his attorney Andrew Haynal presented at the trial – that he was scared and didn’t mean to hurt Cori. Haynal argued to a jury of six men and six women that Perez found her passed out on the sidewalk. He said he tried to calm her down and didn’t mean to kill her.
“I should have thought before acting,” Perez said Monday. “I should have stepped back and cleared my head. Fear took over. I was so scared, so careless.”
“I have brought such hurt and sorrow to the Desmonds that forever my life will be shamed. My deepest apologies and sorrows will never be enough. I can only pray that God and the court will show me mercy.”
Desmond said his words of remorse didn’t ring true.
“He didn’t look up or look at anybody in the face,” Desmond said. “It’s aggravating to try and address somebody and he’s looking down.”
Tiffany Ware, Perez’ live-in girlfriend at the time of the murder, also testified at the hearing. It was Ware’s tip to police that led detectives to Perez. They eventually discovered Cori’s DNA in the SUV Perez had owned. It wasn’t the first car detectives tested for DNA, but it turned out to be their big break after eight months of chasing dead ends.
Ware said she was terrified Perez would find out she contacted the authorities. The couple shares a son together and Perez has two other children from a previous relationship. Ware appeared Monday, as she had during the trial, with an armed escort provided by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.
“Not until I said it out loud to a random person on the other end of the phone did I really feel the fear of your actions,” Ware told Perez, before the court. “After your arrest the night terrors came, waking up in full blown panic attacks.”
“There’s no forgiveness. There’s only the fact that you’re in a place where you can’t physically hurt anybody else,” she said.
After the hearing, Ware and Mark Desmond embraced in the hallway. It was a conversation the two had wanted to have for a long time. He said the Desmond family owed her a tremendous amount of gratitude.
“If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t think they would have ever found out it was him,” said Leslie Schwabe, a family friend who attended every day of the trial along with about a dozen others in San Bernardino, a nearly 90 minute drive from the South Bay. “If she hadn’t made the call we wouldn’t be here today.”
As for the $10,000 reward, Ware is eligible to receive it. Desmond said he didn’t ask about it. “She obviously didn’t do it for that,” he said.
Mark Desmond said his daughter had a beautiful future ahead of her before her life was cut short at the age of 28.
“Tony Perez should live the rest of his miserable life knowing he killed his own children’s hopes and dreams at the same time he was killing Cori Daye,” Desmond said. “He embodies all the characteristics that women in society fear.”
Schwabe read a statement from Cori’s mother, Debbie Desmond.
“I want this court to know what Tony Perez took from me,” Schwabe said. “He took my heart. He took the chance to see her walk down the aisle, to have a family and be a grandmother. He took her chance to have a long full life. He took away the chance for all of us to hear her laugh and see her smile one more time.”
Friend Brittany Karaffa said Cori was a beautiful and talented young woman with a singing voice like an angel.
“Her voice has now joined the chorus of the angels in heaven,” Karaffa said. “She’s free of the pain and terror she endured in the last moments of her life. To Tony Lopez Perez, you stole my best friend. And for that you will suffer for as long as you live.”