Rose Brau began with a reading from John 8:44, telling the woman who murdered her sister, “You are of your father, the devil.”
It didn’t get much better for Linda Gabaldon the rest of Friday, when she was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison on her first-degree murder conviction in the shooting death of Rose’s sister, Rebecca Brau.
One after another, the slain woman’s family heaped disdain on the ex-convict who killed the woman who gave her a place to stay when she got out of prison, a shooting fury prompted by a teasing remark, jurors found.
“I hate you,” were the words of Rebecca’s 10-year-old daughter, as read to the court by one of the girl’s teachers. “I wish you never come out of jail. I hope you die in there. You are a liar and a thief.”
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A Sacramento Superior Court jury last month convicted Gabaldon, 46, of first-degree murder in the April 24, 2013, killing of Brau, 53, a retired youth counselor, in the slain woman’s south-area home on Mascot Avenue.
Judge Sharon A. Lueras gave Brau’s family what they wanted on Friday – the maximum term at her disposal.
“I don’t know what to say to you, Ms. Gabaldon,” the judge said at the sentencing, other than, “It’s time to get honest with yourself.”
For the first-degree murder conviction, Lueras sentenced Gabaldon to 25 to life. For having a prior violent felony conviction on her record, the judge doubled the term under California’s “three-strikes” law. For the personal discharge of a firearm under the “10-20-Life” sentencing enhancement, Lueras imposed another 25-to-life term.
“She’s never getting out,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Smith told the dozen or so family members of Rebecca Brau who attended the sentencing.
Gabaldon sobbed in the courtroom when Smith played a four-minute DVD containing still photos of Rebecca Brau’s life. At one point, Gabaldon dropped her forehead to the table and clutched the back of her head with both hands.
“I know that today is not enough,” she told the Brau family. “I’d like you to know I can’t apologize enough for this tragedy.”
She told the family that Rebecca Brau “is here in spirit.” She said, “I stand here today asking for forgiveness.”
According to the prosecution’s case, Gabaldon had recently been paroled from prison when she moved in with Brau, a longtime friend, about eight months before the killing. Gabaldon had been jailed for 11 years, including seven years for a home-invasion robbery during which she sat on the chest of a 63-year-old victim and smashed him across the face before she and an accomplice grabbed the $850 the man had in his wallet, according to her probation report. The other four years were for elbowing a correctional officer who tried to stop Gabaldon from dropping something into a toilet, the report said, at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
Brau’s family members said at the sentencing that she cared deeply about the homeless and volunteered her time and resources on their behalf. They said it was her nature to offer help to people like Gabaldon.
In his closing argument at Gabaldon’s trial, Smith, the deputy DA, said that tension had begun to build between the two during their eight months of living together. It reached the point, Smith said, where a teasing comment by Brau to Gabaldon about her menstrual cycle made the defendant plan and carry out the fatal shooting.
Gabaldon waited until Brau’s two children, who were then 8 and 13, left for school. Once Gabaldon shot her four times, in the head, throat, underneath the right armpit and the abdomen, she used her car to go out to eat at Taco Bell, the deputy DA said.
Testifying in her own defense, Gabaldon claimed that Brau came at her with the gun first. She said Brau shot herself four times in a struggle over the weapon. Gabaldon’s jury took less than a day of deliberations to dismiss her version of the events and convict her of murder.
At Friday’s sentencing, Rose Brau said the violent death of her sister shattered the entire family. She said to Gabaldon, “My sister took you in when your own family didn’t want you.” She called Gabaldon’s testimony a compilation of “wicked lies.”
“I tried to warn my sister about you,” Rose Brau said. “I saw right through you … You are a monster and a life-stealer.”
A relative read the statement to the court written by Rebecca Brau’s son, who is now 15.
“I miss my mother every day,” he said. “I’m glad you are going to jail for the rest of your life, so you can’t do this to another kid.”
Nieces and nephews, as well as Brau’s sister and her children, mentioned the woman’s volunteer work in homeless shelters, and they found it perplexing how a person she wanted to help wound up murdering her.
“My aunt was just trying to help you get off the streets, and you killed her,” Antonio Brau said in a statement that was read to the court.
Another nephew, Raymond Brau, told Gabaldon, “We didn’t know you at all, Linda,” while a third told the convicted woman, “I hope you find peace, Linda.”
Mostly, there was no forgiveness on Friday for Linda Gabaldon.
“When I look at you,” niece Rachal Francis told Gabaldon, “I don’t see a person. I see a person who lies, who manipulates, who is a murderer.”