The South Florida man convicted of killing his adoptive mother in Pembroke Pines was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.
Gerard Lopes, 23, had been found guilty last month of second-degree murder in the death of Natalie Belmonte.
The courtroom was packed with dozens of her family members and friends, as Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry handed down the sentence. He had harsh words for Lopes.
“What emerges from all of this is a portrait of a true sociopath. You have no conscience to guide you, Mr. Lopes. You have no empathy for others," Destry said.
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Authorities said Lopes raped Belmonte, 43, and her bludgeoned body was found in a marsh near their Pembroke Pines home in July 2011.
An autopsy showed that semen found in Belmonte matched Lopes’ DNA, but Lopes’ attorneys argued it was not relevant because the sexual relationship was consensual, a claim Belmonte's relatives vehemently denied.
“You dumped her half-naked and beaten body in a swamp. You did not even have the decency to cover her,” Destry said.
Police said security video from a neighbor’s house showed Belmonte and Lopes, who was 21 at the time of his 2011 arrest, leaving in the same car and stopping at a Walgreens before heading to a party.
The car returned with Lopes and Belmonte around 2:48 a.m. A short time later, Lopes was seen dragging a bag across the driveway and loading bags into the trunk. Belmonte's body was found three days later and Lopes' clothing was found in a dumpster with Belmonte's blood on it.
Lopes had pleaded not guilty to the murder.
Citing concern for what he called a total lack of remorse, the judge imposed the harshest punishment. The sentence brought the victim's family to tears.
Belmonte adopted Lopes, her cousin, when he was a child and had lost his father in Guyana.
During sentencing the judge mentioned she saved him from what was sure to be a life of poverty and Lopes treated her with utter contempt.
“If he could this to his mother, who loved him, cared for him, then there's nothing left for anyone else in society,” prosecutor Adriana Alcalde said.