Thirty-seven-year-old David Marmolejo pleaded guilty Thursday morning to a series of violent sexual assaults in Phoenix.
Police say the crimes were committed back in 2005 and 2006.
While Marmolejo's name isn't well known in the Phoenix area, in his hometown of El Paso Texas it stirs up memories of one of the city's most horrific crimes.
In 2009, Marmolejo appeared grief stricken in a photo showing him releasing white doves over his mother’s casket at her funeral in 2009.
His emotional display, which was featured on the front page of the El Paso Times newspaper, is what you’d expect from a man whose mother had just been brutally murdered.
Investigators say 54-year-old Gloria Huerta, a beloved mother and grandmother, was strangled to death, her body found dumped in a desert area just outside of El Paso, Texas.
After her body was discovered Marmolejo stood with his older brother and uncles as the family made a public plea for help finding her killers.
"My mom is the most loving person and probably looked her killers in the eyes and forgave them,” Manny Marmolejo said in a statement he read to a group of reporters.
Overcome with emotion the news clip show Manny turn and hug his brother while sobbing uncontrollably.
“The thought that there is someone out there who could do something like this is hard for us to imagine,” Gloria’s brother, Mark Huerta, told the media.
Family members had no idea Huerta’s killer was standing right beside them
Just a few weeks after the funeral El Paso police arrested Marmolejo and charged him with his mother’s murder.
“He was crying on camera and he came across as this really anguished guy,” said Adriana Chavez.
Chavez covered the case while working as a reporter for the El Paso Times.
"I think a lot of people related to her as their mom,” Chavez told 12 News.
But that's only part of why the case captivated the community.
“I think the main thing was this relationship that he had with his stepsister,” Chavez said.
During the trial prosecutors told jurors that relationship was the motive for murder.
Family members said Huerta didn’t approve of a then 29-year-old Marmolejo having a romantic relationship with his 18-year old step sister, Mariah Wilson.
The day Huerta disappeared family members say she’d left the Phoenix area, where she’d been staying with her oldest son, and driven to El Paso to confront Marmolejo about Wilson living with him in Huerta’s home while she was away.
Wilson was given immunity to testify against Marmolejo in court.
Wilson told jurors she began having a sexual relationship with Marmolejo when she was 14-years-old and he was 25.
She also admitted to helping Marmolejo dispose of his mother’s body and cleanup the crime scene.
“They just didn't believe her,” Chavez said about Wilson’s testimony.
“They didn't like her demeanor on the stand, she came off as very standoffish.”
A few months later the case was moved to San Antonio where Marmolejo was retried, convicted and sentenced to 54 years in prison.
But that wasn’t the first violent crime Marmolejo has been accused of committing.
In the years before his mother’s murder Marmolejo was living in the Phoenix area.
In 2006 Phoenix Police arrested him on charges of violently raping and robbing four valley women.
Charges that initially didn't stick.
“The victims couldn't be located and that's why he was never brought to trial,” Chavez said.
Police say his alleged victims, later identified as prostitutes, gave terrifying accounts of being raped and beaten at gunpoint.
Now more than 10 years later Marmolejo, extradited from Texas, is sitting in a Maricopa County jail.
His trial on the rape charges was set to start Thursday morning.
With Marmolejo eligible for parole in around 20 years, a conviction in Phoenix would have erased any chance of him ever walking free.
Marmolejo however did not move forward with the trial.
Instead, he plead guilty to several counts of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault.
He is now awaiting sentencing.
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