Killer gets life without parole in death of 83-year-old

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In a murder case that Montgomery County's top prosecutor called the most horrific he has seen since taking office, a yard worker was sentenced to life in prison Monday for forcing his way into an 83-year-old client's home, slamming her head repeatedly against the wooden arm of a sofa, dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire while she was still alive.

"The inhumane manner you chose to exterminate a lady well into the autumn years of her life strongly suggests that you are sadistic," Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence J. McGann told Ramon Alvarado, 33. "A civilized society demands that you be in prison for the remainder of your life."

Jose Alvarado, Ramon Alvarado's cousin, did yard work for the victim, Lila Meizell, at her home in Wheaton. Last November, after Meizell gave Jose Alvarado a $75 check for work he had done, he added two zeros to the check, deposited it, grew concerned that he would get caught and paid his cousin $1,000 to kill her.

Ramon Alvarado also had worked at Meizell's home. At his trial last month, prosecutors presented black-and-white autopsy photographs of Meizell. She suffered a brain hemorrhage, fractures in seven ribs and burns to the back of her throat, indicating that she was still alive when she was set on fire. On Monday, prosecutors showed McGann color photographs. Large portions of her body were charred. Her face was unrecognizable.

"One cannot look at them very long without gagging," McGann told Alvarado at the end of the hearing. "I'm going to put these in the envelope so they don't turn anyone else's stomach."

Alvarado was led off in handcuffs. Moments before, he had spoken of the effect on his family.

"I am thinking about what my mother is going to think of me after I get sentenced," he said through an interpreter. "I'm concerned about my mother. When she finds out what happens to me, she can get quite ill."

McGann also imposed the condition that Alvarado not be eligible for parole.

Jose Alvarado pleaded guilty in June to first-degree murder and will be sentenced soon. Both men are wanted by immigration officials, an indication that they entered the country illegally.

In court Monday, Meizell was remembered as a vibrant woman who enjoyed dancing and going to shows with her boyfriend. "My mother was a very trusting woman," a daughter wrote in a statement to the judge. "When it came to hiring people for her lawn, she was happy with this man."

"This man will die in jail," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said after the sentencing. "And hopefully, so will his co-defendant."

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