In early November in their Fairfax County apartment, Maria J. Alvarenga broke the news to her longtime boyfriend, Nelson N. Moreno, the father of their two children: She was in love with someone else.

In the weeks afterward, the couple discussed separating. But after a night of drinking, Moreno stabbed Alvarenga to death Nov. 18, with their children, 4 and 3, in the Engleside apartment east of Fort Belvoir, according to court testimony. He then called two family members to tell them he had killed Alvarenga, relatives testified.

After hearing testimony yesterday, a Fairfax jury that last week convicted Moreno of first-degree murder recommended that he be sentenced to 25 years in prison. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terrence Ney will formally sentence Moreno on Nov. 17. Under Virginia law, Ney can decrease, but not increase, the sentence.

Moreno, 40, took the stand last week and said he did not remember stabbing Alvarenga, 27, after drinking six beers and taking pain medication. A native of Honduras, Moreno said through a Spanish interpreter that he did not plan the murder and that he was very remorseful. "Why did she talk to me when I was drunk," he testified yesterday during the sentencing hearing, "when I didn't have my wits about me?"

Fairfax Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie L. Mitchell used Moreno's lament to argue that he was not remorseful and that he was blaming Alvarenga. "This woman was butchered," Mitchell said, reminding the jury that Alvarenga was stabbed in the neck, the heart, the back and the hands. "This defendant had no right to execute the person who planned to leave him."

Ildefonso Gomes Alvarenga, the victim's brother, received a call from Moreno on the night of the murder, telling him to come pick up the children. He since has taken them into his own home.

Moreno faced up to 20 years to life and Mitchell asked the jury for the maximum. Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey Overand argued for a 20-year term, saying that Moreno had no criminal history and that the crime was not premeditated. The jury deliberated about two hours before deciding on its sentence.