Gabriella Castaneda was in the 5th grade when her mom went missing
Fri, 02 Dec 2011 04:49:21 GMT —
She spent the following 2 years believing stories her family told her that Jo Ann Chavez would eventually return.
"My family would tell me she's on vacation and she'll be back."
When Jo Ann didn't come back and news of her vicious murder surfaced, Gabriella's world crumbled."I was in a lot of pain."
Her mother had been brutally killed by alleged Mexican Mafia gang members.
The man who ordered for Jo Ann to be kidnapped from Harlingen, murdered and then buried on a Willacy County ranch Wilfredo Padilla, was sentenced Thursday to 50 years behind bars for the murder.
19 year old Gabriella had a chance to face him inside a Cameron County courtroom and called Padilla weak.
"His smirks throughout the trial, he tried to scare my family. He never intimidated me. "
She puts on a strong front, but it's clear this teenager has suffered.
"It was really hard especially not having my mother by my side. I'm a mother now and it was really hard without her."
Gabriella says Padilla is dead to her. She'll erase him from her mind and never think of him again,but the memories she will hold on to are of her young mother full of life and love.
"My best memories are of me and my mom singing songs together. I can never forget her scent. I can never forget her loud laugh."
Now she'll have a place to reflect and find some closure.
"Most people have somewhere to go, but I had to wait till all of this was over.
I finally feel good that they released her remains and we can finally have a burial, that's all i asked for through this whole process."