EDINBURG — Dressed in orange with his hands and legs in shackles, a 43-year-old San Juan man listened while Melinda Garza’s father forgave him, and while her children told him they hope he burns in hell.
“Even though you did what you did, in my heart, my faith, I have forgiven you,” Armando Garza, a minister, told Mateo Fabian Garza Thursday afternoon.
The convict is a former member of Armando Garza’s congregation.
“I hope that one day you will get on your knees and ask for forgiveness,” he said.
Inside a packed courtroom on the second floor of the Hidalgo County Courthouse, state District Judge Fernando Mancias sentenced Mateo Fabian Garza to 65 years in prison for strangling Melinda Garza, who he was in a relationship with, at their San Juan home on Aug. 15, 2018.
Authorities found Melinda Garza’s lifeless body after her daughter called police for a welfare check after her friends and family hadn’t heard from her for a day.
In handing down the sentence, Mancias underscored how it likely took Melinda Garza six-and-a-half minutes to die from strangulation.
Before sentencing, Mateo Fabian Garza, who stood before a courtroom packed with his victim’s family and friends, held his head low and addressed the court.
“It’s been a year and two months and it’s been the most difficult time in our lives,” he said.
During a short statement, Mateo Fabian Garza spoke about the suffering “we” endured, referring to his victim’s family and friends, as well as himself.
“The pain in my heart does not go away,” he said. “She was very precious to me.”
In closing, he called his victim his hero.
“I will always love her and I will never forget her,” he said.
Following his sentencing, numerous other people provided impact statements to the man about the pain and loss he’s caused in their lives.
He also received a 10-year sentence that will run concurrent with his 65-year sentence for violating his probation from an assault on another woman in 2014.