Man learns fate after pleading guilty to murder By Mark Reagan Staff Writer
Alvaro Mata Jr. took the witness stand Friday and claimed he shot his wife five times in front of two of their sons by accident.
But 197th state District Judge Adolfo Cordova didn’t buy it.
Cordova, who sentenced Mata, who showed no emotion, to five decades in prison, tantamount to a decade for each time Mata shot 36-year-old Jessica Cortina, and fined the man $10,000, told Mata he read the 33 letters submitted on his behalf by friends and family who said he was a good coworker, friend, son, sibling, father and husband.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Cordova told Mata. “I disagree with all 33 of those opinions.”
Mata shot and killed Cortina on Nov. 14, 2017, in front of their 17-year-old and 4-year-old sons. He pleaded guilty to murder on Jan. 22 after reaching a plea deal where prosecutors asked for 20 to 50 years in prison in order to spare Cortina and Mata’s four sons, who were all in the house at the time of the murder, from having to relive the ordeal.
In addressing Mata, Cordova revealed that Mata was under the influence of cocaine when he murdered his wife in front of their children and reminded him of the gripping 911 call made by his son that the court heard Thursday during testimony.
“That moment will be with him forever,” Cordova told Mata. “My guess is he will have problems for the rest of his life.”
He also reminded Mata how his mother took the stand, pleading with him for mercy so that he could have a chance to be released from prison and care for his four children, who now live with Cortina’s parents.
“I don’t see how that would ever be possible,” Cordova said.
In Cordova’s eyes, Mata has already received mercy.
“I think that the mercy has been shown to you in the family of your wife, Jessica, by agreeing to the range of 20 to 50 years,” Cordova said.
Without that plea deal, Mata faced up to 99 years in prison.
Cortina’s father, Epitacio Cortina, asked Mata, who did not look at him, during victim impact statements, whether he believed he deserved to get out of prison before serving the maximum 50 years in prison.
“It’s been over a year and three months and it’s still hard to accept she is gone,” Epitacio said.
He told his son-in-law that when someone loves another person, they do everything in their power to make sure that a loved one lives a long, happy life.
“And you did the opposite,” Epitacio said.
However, Mata will never be able to kill Cortina’s genuine love, spirit and soul, Epitacio said.
He also scolded Mata for leaving his children motherless.
“My family and I will do our best to love each and every one of the children,” he said.
Epitacio told Mata that Cortina was not an object for him to do as he pleased.
“Wives are not possessions. They are not possessions of men. They are companions,” Epitacio said.
Cortina’s father told her killer that his daughter’s death was not God’s will, but instead was Mata’s stupidity.
“We can never forgive you because of your relentless abuse of Jessica and your children,” Epitacio said. “You are a monster.”
Mata, who took the stand Friday, testified that he became enraged and overwhelmed at his wife after claiming to see her taking a provocative photo of herself when he arrived at the home unannounced. He demanded to see her phone before the deadly shooting. She refused.
When Mata didn’t get what he want, he pulled out a .22 caliber rifle from the closet and said he pointed it at the bed and ordered her to unlock her phone so he could see who she was texting.
Again, Cortina refused, and Mata pulled the trigger, claiming he didn’t know he shot her.
Then she ran to her son’s room. Mata followed.
That’s when he asked his 17-year-old son: “Do you think your mom deserves to live?”
On Friday, Mata testified he didn’t remember saying that, but said he then shot her again and picked up her night gown, exposing his wife’s nude body, and saw the bullet wound.
Then he said he checked on the other children.
“At that point, I left because I got scared because I knew I was going to be arrested,” Mata said.
Mata claimed he just wanted to scare his wife.
“I did not mean to kill my wife,” Mata said. “I was trying to scare her to unlock her phone.”
Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, who cross examined Mata and delivered closing arguments, said, “Well, you scared her to death.”
Saenz slammed Mata for claiming he shot his wife by accident and said instead of letting his wife rest in peace, Mata reached into her grave and grabbed her out to make their problems public in an effort to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
After it was all said and done, Saenz said sending Mata to prison for 50 years is a win, but in a sense it’s not.
“Jessica is gone. Four children are left without a mother and, now, without a father,” Saenz said.
For Saenz, who said he has read hundreds of autopsy reports and has done hundreds of jury trials involving death cases, this is one of the most egregious he’s ever come across.
“It’s just unthinkable that a father would shoot and kill his wife in front of the two sons,” Saenz said. “That, I cannot process. And to me that was the most egregious part of the case and it was just, I don’t find the words for it.”