A California father who admitted killing his 5-year-old son amid a bitter divorce and custody battle was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison at a hearing where his sobbing estranged wife wished him eternal hell.
After the court proceeding, investigators revealed the boy had been smothered with his own coat before his father dumped his body in the woods hours after a family outing to Disneyland.
Police believe defendant Aramazd Andressian Sr, 35, of South Pasadena planned to frame his wife Ana Estevez for the killing then commit suicide.
"I hope you relive the image of murdering my baby every day of your insignificant life," Estevez told Andressian before he was sentenced.
"May your dark soul burn in eternal hell," she said, tears streaming down her face.
The killing occurred early on April 21. After a day at Disneyland with relatives, Andressian and his son, Aramazd Jr, drove about 233 kilometres to Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County.
Andressian smothered the boy and dumped the body in a wooded area near Vista Point, Los Angeles County sheriff's Detective Louie Aguilera said outside court.
The next morning, Andressian was found passed out in a South Pasadena park, sparking an intensive search for the boy. Andressian had taken prescription pills and was found in a car doused in gasoline, authorities have said.
The father had planned the killing for about three months and wanted to implicate his estranged wife, Aguilera said without providing details of the plot.
Andressian was arrested then released as the search for the boy continued. In June, he was re-arrested in Las Vegas and brought back to Los Angeles. While in custody, he confessed and told investigators where to find the body, authorities said.
Andressian pleaded guilty to first-degree murder earlier this month in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The plea eliminated the possibility of the death penalty.
Andressian had planned to read a statement at the sentencing hearing but changed his mind after Judge Cathryn Brougham said prosecutors would be able to question him if he spoke.
Andressian's attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, said his client wanted to apologise and had taken responsibility by confessing and pleading guilty. He would not say why his client killed the boy.
"He will forever be sorry and regrets what he did and this is something he will live with for the rest of his life," Rodriguez said.
Estevez, who tearfully pleaded for the public's help when her son was missing, called her husband a failure as a father, a man and a human being.
"There is no real pain, just an incomprehensible deadness. Like my son, I, too, have died," she said.