Father Calls Teenage Daughter’s Killer ‘Coward’, ‘Stupid’

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CLEVELAND--The father of a murdered teenager had strong words for his daughter’s killer.

Pedro Zacarias was visibly upset as he prepared to deliver the family's victim impact statement in Judge Nancy McDonnell’s courtroom at the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland.

As Pedro walked toward the podium he stopped and turned toward 17-year-old Anthony Ruiz and said something in Spanish.

The judge and prosecutors quickly stopped the exchange before it escalated. But later Mr. Zacarias called Ruiz “a coward and “stupid” and told him to stop “that stupid smile.”

Ruiz was convicted of aggravated murder in the deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Zacarias, 16, and her unborn child.

The John Marshall High School student was shot multiple times in her own backyard by Ruiz last February.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors said, Ruiz was mad that Jennifer had ended the relationship.

Her father Pedro heard the shots and found her lying in the snow in the backyard of their home on West 102nd Street in Cleveland.

“I took my daughter; I took her in my arms. I realized there was too much blood she had been assassinated,” said Pedro Zacarias, “Everything became dark.”

Jennifer’s mother, Leticia Villafan was also in court Thursday. She clung to Pedro during the proceedings with tears streaming down her cheeks.

A dozen other family members and friends wore bright lime green t-shirts with Jennifer’s picture.

Through an interpreter, Mr. Zacarias said, “This person has taken what was most valuable to us. To see him outside, to know that he is alive is more than we can handle.”

Judge McDonnell sentenced Ruiz to 33 years to life.

Jennifer’s parents felt the sentence was too light and they expressed concerns that Ruiz might be released when he is still young enough to have a life or hurt someone else.

Pedro said, “For me it would be a death penalty, and if possible shoot him.”

Ruiz also addressed the court, during which time he quoted the bible and talked about forgiveness. He said, “I pray every day that the path he chose isn’t to be sent to prison or my purpose in life to be a prisoner.”

He also asked the judge for to “have mercy” on him. He said, “I was in love and I did make the wrong decision and I apologize for what I’ve done.”

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