On November 9th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. In preparation for oral arguments, JLWOP: Faces & Cases will be an on-going series on The Foundry that will tell real stories about juvenile offenders who are currently serving LWOP sentences.
Defendant: Ralph David Cruz, Jr., 16.
Victims: Lucila Bojorquez, Brandon Esquer and Jenny Bojorquez.
Crimes: Three counts, first degree murder and Armed robbery.
Crime date: August 4, 2001 in Tucson, Ariz.
Ralph Cruz, Jr., shot and killed a mother and her two young children after the mother refused to give him her car. He then dumped the children’s bodies in the desert.
Lucila Bojorquez was the single mother of two children: six-year-old Brandon Esquer and his seven-year-old sister Jenny Bojorquez. On August 4, 2001, all three were in their car in a Tucson apartment complex parking lot, preparing to drive home.
Cruz, armed with a Glock .40 caliber handgun, approached them, pointed the gun at Lucila, and demanded that she give him the car. She refused. Cruz shot her once in the head and twice in the chest. Cruz then pulled her lifeless body out of the car, got in, and drove off, running over her bloodied body.
Witnesses notified the police immediately. Police learned that the children had likely been in the car.
Approximately 30 minutes later, citizens discovered the bodies of two young children at an overlook at West Gate’s Pass in the Tucson Mountains, west of Tucson. The bodies were those of Brandon and Jenny. Both had been shot in the head. There was also a hole in Jenny’s hand, indicating that she had tried to hide her face before Cruz shot her. Several days later, Lucila’s vehicle was found in the desert, missing its tires and rims. Blood, bullet casings, and Cruz’s palm print were found in the vehicle.
The police circulated recent photos of Lucila’s car before it had been stripped, with its fancy rims and tires intact. Three days after the murders, Cruz’s mother notified police that the tires and rims matched those in her son’s bedroom. A search of the Cruz home turned up the tires and rims, as well as the gun used in the murders. Cruz’s bloodied clothes had been buried in the backyard.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but after the second day of trial, Cruz agreed to plead guilty to all charges if they would relent.
On January 7, 2002, Cruz received two sentences of life without parole for murdering Brandon and Jenny and a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 25 years for murdering Lucila, with the sentences to run consecutively. He also received 10 and one-half years (to run concurrently with the other sentences) for armed robbery.
Charles D. Stimson is Senior Legal Fellow and Andrew M. Grossman is Senior Legal Policy Analyst in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.