Tari Ramirez, a Mexican national who told the judge his true name was Tare Nicolas Beltran Chuc, was convicted Sept. 30 of second-degree murder for the killing of Claire Joyce Tempongko inside her Richmond District apartment on Oct. 20, 2000.
Ramirez stabbed Tempongko, a 28-year-old jewelry store worker, 21 times after confronting her inside the apartment, while her 10-year-old son watched, according to court testimony. Tempongko's 5-year-old daughter was also inside the apartment at the time. Neither child belonged to Ramirez.
After fleeing to Mexico, Ramirez was arrested in 2006.
Judge Robert Dondero today lambasted what he referred to as Ramirez's testimony during his trial that the domestic violence incidents had been merely "the ups and downs of a relationship."
"No human relationship can ever be described as 'ups and downs' when it involves domestic violence," said Dondero.
"Your behavior lowered yourself to the level of the animal," he said.
Ramirez was sentenced to 16 years to life for the murder and for the special allegation that he used a deadly weapon.
A statement read in court from Tempongko's son Justin called Ramirez "a ruthless murderer who could not control himself."
Tempongko's mother Clara also read a statement. She called her daughter "a happy spirit, always concerned for others."
"I am now missing an essential part of me," her mother said. She recalled years of abuse against her daughter by Ramirez and asked that he never be allowed out of jail.
Ramirez read a statement apologizing for the killing.
He called Tempongko "a wonderful person" and said he loved her two children "as my own."
Attorneys for Ramirez had argued the killing was voluntary manslaughter because Ramirez went into shock and stabbed her without thinking after being told by Tempongko that she had aborted his child.
"God knows, that deep in my heart, I regret what happened, as much as you do," Ramirez told Tempongko's family.
Prosecutor Liz Aguilar-Tarchi had claimed Ramirez had been in a jealous rage that day, suspecting Tempongko had spent the afternoon with another man, and came to the apartment intending to kill her, she said.
Aguilar-Tarchi, who had argued for first-degree murder during the trial, told Ramirez today, "Your intentions were evil and calculated." She said following the killing, Ramirez took Tempongko's cell phone to call his friends and plan his escape, and ripped out the landline from Tempongko's apartment to prevent the children from calling police.
"I've been a prosecutor for 21 years, and I've never prosecuted such a coward," Aguilar-Tarchi said.
Both Aguilar-Tarchi and Tempongko's family broke down in tears after the verdict was read.
"This has been a long time coming," District Attorney Kamala Harris said after the hearing.
"The sentence in this case was appropriate, and justice has been served," Harris said, adding that she agreed Ramirez "is an animal and deserves to be in a cage."
Harris said the case had brought focus about the ways departments communicate with one another in the criminal justice system in San Francisco, and she said improvements have since been and continue to be made.
The case had been closely watched by domestic violence victim advocates, because Ramirez had been arrested three times in 1999 for assaulting Tempongko, and he spent four months in jail for one of the arrests.
Tempongko's family sued the city of San Francisco after the murder, alleging police had failed to transmit their reports to the city's adult probation department, the district attorney's office and the superior court.
The city settled the lawsuit in 2004 by awarding $500,000 to Tempongko's two children.