Noting the defendant's complete lack of remorse and no acceptance of responsibility in the 2008 death of Eliana Torres, Morris County Superior Court Judge David Ironson on Tuesday sentenced Kleber Cordova to 50 years in prison.
On the count of murder, Cordova, an Ecuadorian immigrant in the country illegally, was sentenced to 45 years. He must serve 38 years and three months of that sentence before any eligibility of parole. At 33 years old, Cordova won't be eligible until he is 71.
Defense Attorney Jessica Moses has already filed an appeal.
Cordova also received an additional five years for endangering the welfare of a child, in reference to his then 8-year-old daughter, "K.C.," who witnessed Cordova drown her mother in the bathtub of their Western Avenue apartment on May 9, 2008. .
"[This was] cruel, depraved, vicious and simply unimaginable," Ironson said as Cordova stood stone-faced when the sentence was handed down. Throughout the sentencing, even when Torres' sister, Zaida Solis, and her mother, Rita Valverde read statements, Cordova did not show any emotion in the courtroom.
"The pain doesn't seem to go away," Solis read in her letter. "When I think about Kleber, I still don't understand what happened. How could you let us down like this? I don't know if he understands the pain he caused."
That pain began early that morning in May 2008. Cordova told police he had come home from a job cleaning at to find his wife naked and unconscious in their bathtub. Later in trial, it was proven he had actually assaulted Torres, forcing her into the bathtub filling with water after she told him she had been seeing someone else and wanted a divorce.
K.C. testified that she came into the bathroom and asked what was going on. Cordova, still holding Torres' down and in the water, told his daughter everything was fine and to go back to her room.
Prosecutors contended that K.C. at the time could not process what she was seeing, that her mother was being murdered by her father. Earlier this year, when the now 12-year-old took the stand in her father's trial, she broke down several times while recalling the incident. Cordova then hid his wife's wet clothes in a garbage bag in their car and called a relative, before calling 911.
"This is the ultimate act of domestic violence," said Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Maggie Calderwood, who was seeking a life sentence. "There's nothing that has come out to say this was an accident."
In response to the defense's argument that Cordova's act was of passion and not murder, Ironson noted when his daughter walked into the bathroom.
"It should have been a sobering moment for you," he said. "You should have made a different choice."
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said following the sentencing that he was proud of his prosecutors and the work they did in convicting Kleber Cordova. The prosecutor also expressed praise and appreciation for the work of the Morristown Police Department.
"It was originally thought to be an accident," he said. "After all these years, I'm very satisfied with the results."
The victim's mother told Kleber Cordova that she hopes he finds forgiveness, but it will not come from her.
"You are now nothing," Valverde, Torres' mother, read in Spanish toward Cordova in the courtroom. "Not even 100 years of solitude will fix the harm you caused us.
"I don't hate you, I don't wish you the worst," she read. "Let God forgive you, because I won't."