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Family of Murdered Teen Speaks Out During Sentencing

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DES MOINES, Iowa —Family of a murdered Des Moines teen got their chance Thursday to face the man convicted in her murder during his sentencing hearing.

Sentencing for Raymond Benitez, 19, was held Thursday morning in a Polk County courtroom. He received a sentence of up to 60 years in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 35 years.

Benitez pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder and willful injury causing serious injury charges in the death of Judy VanLo, 18.

VanLo was found dead by family members in their north Des Moines home last June.

Family addressed Benitez during victim impact statements read before the sentence was announced.

"You have murdered our family, not just Judy," Jessica VanLo, Judy's mom told Benitez.

Judy's cousin, Nikki Bevel, also spoke at the hearing about her thoughts when she heard Judy had been badly injured.

"I just wanted to hold her," Bevel said. "I just wanted to get there and hold her."

Bevel said that after the family learned Judy died, Judy's dad "was sitting on the ground, crying and broken."

Addressing Benitez, she said, "What do I say to (my 6-year-old daughter) when she says 'Why does God want her? I want her.'"

Benitez also made a statement before his sentencing.

"Words cannot express how deeply sorry I am for my actions," Benitez told the judge and those in the courtroom.

To his mother, Benitez said he was sorry.

"You didn't have anything to do with what I did, but you suffer," he said.

He asked for forgiveness from Judy's family and his own family.