Looking into the eyes of the man who killed his family, James Serrano took off his glasses and fought back tears while sharing a story Thursday morning.
It began with him walking out of his south Fort Worth house moments after he found his wife and two daughters dead on June 3, 2014.
He talked of going to the police station and answering questions from a Fort Worth detective. He said he fell to his knees in prayer after the detective left the room, asking God to forgive the sins of his now-deceased loved ones and of those responsible for their deaths.
“Cedric, I forgave you before I knew it was you,” Serrano told Cedric McGinnis, 23.
Minutes earlier, McGinnis had pleaded guilty to capital murder in the robbery and slayings of his ex-girlfriend, April Serrano, 21; her sister, Kathy DeLeon, 35; and their mother, Cynthia Serrano, 48.
As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez sentenced McGinnis to life in prison without parole.
“You got a second chance to life that my girls don’t have,” James Serrano told McGinnis. “Cedric, turn your heart, turn your life, to the Lord. Let him guide you. That’s the only way to make it.”
Three other family members and a friend of the victims took the stand after James Serrano, each describing their loss and suffering while also delivering a message of forgiveness.
“You’ve been given an opportunity [where] somebody in this particular situation would have probably gotten death,” said Anthony DeLeon, Cynthia Serrano’s brother. “So live it. Live it to the fullest. Be wise. Don’t go down that other road, man.”
‘My sister, Cynthia, she fought’
James Serrano had just returned from working a late shift when he found his family dead inside the home in the 500 block of West Felix Street.
April Serrano and Kathy DeLeon had been shot. Their mother had been shot and repeatedly stabbed.
Property was also missing.
Hours later, McGinnis posted a message about the death of his ex-girlfriend and her family on his Facebook page: “R.I.P April Marie Serrano mane. Its always the innocent ones that get [expletive] over. Gone but never forgotten. #lovetothefamily #lovetoher.”
Police questioned McGinnis early on June 4 after learning that April Serrano had recently begun seeing McGinnis again.
He initially denied involvement but later confessed to investigators that he killed the three women. He told police that April Serrano let him sneak into her bedroom window so the two could have sex and that he planned to steal items from the home after she fell asleep.
When she woke up and caught him in the act, McGinnis told police, he shot her and turned the gun on her sister, who had been asleep on the couch.
He said he then shot Cynthia Serrano in the master bedroom but ran out of ammunition and began stabbing her with a knife. When that knife bent, he stabbed her with a second knife until she was dead, he told police.
“My sister, Cynthia, she fought,” Anthony DeLeon told the Star-Telegram after Thursday’s hearing. “She was a fighter. She was such a loving soul, but she was like … the lion. She didn’t let nobody mess with her cubs.”
McGinnis told investigators that he stole electronics, shoes and change from three piggy banks, as well as other items.
Police found the suspected murder weapons — a gun and two knives, one of them bent — along with many of the stolen items at a Haltom City apartment rented by the mother of McGinnis’ two young children.
Kim D’Avignon, the prosecutor on the case, said the victims were greatly loved by their family and friends.
“This defendant slaughtered them for some electronics, shoes and piggy-bank change,” she said. “There is no place in society for that kind of evil. This plea ensures he will never breathe free air again.”
SOURCE: DEANNA BOYD