WENTWORTH, N.C. (AP) — A 29-year-old man was sentenced Friday to two life sentences for fatally shooting a couple after breaking into a Rockingham County home that had become his obsession.
Local media outlets report that Jose Alvarez Jr. of Greensboro pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the 2012 deaths of Troy and LaDonna French, the parents of his brother’s then-girlfriend.
Alvarez, who apologized in court, is not eligible for parole.
“You will die in prison,” Judge Ed Wilson told him.
Attorneys say Alvarez repeatedly broke into the French’s home over six months after finding a spare key and making a copy. During one break-in, he stole the 9 mm gun used in the murders.
Defense attorney Vincent Rabil said Alvarez initially went to the home out of curiosity after seeing the address on the driver’s license of the couple’s 19-year-old daughter, Whitley French, who was dating — and later married — his younger brother. Alvarez, a landscaper, then became obsessed with the details of the house.
Sometimes no one was home. Other times, he watched the family sleep.
“He was fixated on smells,” Rabil said. It “was a model home. Everything was new and freshly painted.”
On Feb. 4, 2012, Whitley French woke up when a floorboard creaked and screamed when she saw a masked man.
When Alvarez tried to shush her, he cut her with his knife, said Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer.
As Alvarez fled, he encountered the couple near the bottom of the stairs and shot them multiple times.
But as he switched from the knife to the gun, he cut himself, leaving blood. However, the evidence wasn’t identified until last year.
That’s when a lab determined a familial match to his brother John Alvarez, who was by then Whitley French’s husband, and investigators asked Jose Alvarez Jr. for a DNA sample, the Greensboro News & Record reported.
“You have made your own family suffer,” LaDonna French’s sister, Kathy Hayes, told him in court. “I love your parents and brother, but you have broken their hearts.”