Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 | 8:15 p.m.
A 22-year-old accomplice in a 2010 crime spree was sentenced to 56 years to life on Wednesday for his part in the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a waitress as well as a deadly shooting.
Richard Freeman pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder charges related to the deaths of Julio Romero and Prisma Contreras.
His plea deal dropped dozens of charges. He also dodged a death sentence.
The court found Freeman wasn’t the driving force behind the crimes, although he acted as a getaway driver.
His 41-year-old cohort, former process server Gregory Lee Hover, was sentenced to death in May.
The body of 21-year-old Contreras’ was found inside her burnt blue Jeep on Jan. 15, 2010.
Her family reported her missing when she didn’t return from her shift at the Mad Onion restaurant at Hooters.
The double shooting happened when Hover returned to the home of Roberta and Julio Romero, 64, on Jan. 25, 2010, after going there earlier that day. Julio Romero died and Roberta Romero was shot in the face and left to die.
The sister, mother and husband as well as other members of Contreras’ family were present for the hearing, prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said.
Freeman, who was 18 when he committed the crimes, expressed remorse to family members during the emotional sentencing, said Freeman’s attorney Kristina Wildeveld.
DiGiacomo didn’t buy his remorse or that he was only a getaway driver and said the family members can take comfort in the fact that his chances at parole are slim.
“There is no question that Richard Freeman is a sociopath who is willing to say whatever he can to avoid the punishment he deserves, so his representations to the court ring quite hollow,” DiGiacomo said.
Wildeveld stressed that Freeman has never denied that he was involved in the crimes.
While the sentence is harsh, which she said they expected, it isn’t as harsh as what could have happened had the case gone to trial, Wildeveld said.
Netting parole allows him to avoid a maximum-security facility, making him eligible for work and education programs.
Wildeveld said Freeman wants to participate in a prison program that would allow him to warn young people not to go down same path he did.
Granting him parole was a careful and considerate thing for Judge Carolyn Ellsworth to do, Wildeveld said.
Freeman won’t be eligible for parole until he is in his 70s.
“His whole life is gone,” Wildeveld said.