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Prison ordered for Utahn who fired through window, murdering young mother

SALT LAKE CITY — As her daughter's killer was sent to prison on Thursday, Kim Wood held tightly to reminders of her.

She clutched a torn piece of pink paper that read, "I love you, Mom," and a blanket printed with pictures of Paige Espinoza and her son.

Now 9 years old, he cries for his mother every day, she told a judge.

"He doesn't understand why we can't bring her back," Wood said, and she struggles to explain the loss because she can't comprehend it, either.

Third District Judge James Blanch ordered Gino James Cecala, 47, to serve up to life in prison for Espinoza's death, the result of more than a dozen rounds Cecala fired into a Magna bedroom two years ago.

"There's not a silver lining in this case," the judge said.

Policesay Cecala, a former boyfriend of Espinoza, had targeted her current boyfriend when he fired blindly through his window at 8360 W. Mix Ave. She was struck in the head and leg, court documents say.

Espinoza's boyfriend told police she was acting "normal" and was in a good mood the night of her death, but before the shooting, she looked at her phone as if she had received a message and appeared "stone faced," according to a search warrant affidavit. He told officers Cecala had threatened their lives several times.

About one week prior to the shooting, the boyfriend "assaulted Cecala for calling him a 'snitch,'" an informant later told investigators, according to the warrant. Cecala was arrested several months later in Texas, where he has family.

In a brief statement, Cecala said Thursday, "I just want to say that what happened that night has left me with a feeling of loss for Paige's family and her son, that I just can't even begin to say how much it hurts me for them and what they've lost."

Espinoza, 25, loved swimming with her family members and planned to go to beauty school, her mother recalled. She dreamed of someday doing makeup for Hollywood stars.

Though Cecala showed remorse in court, parole authorities interviewed him recently and determined that he has cast blame away from himself, Blanch noted.

"It's a little unclear the extent to which you are taking responsibility for it," the judge said.

In a letter to the judge, Cecala asked to be moved to a different prison because he said a gang in Utah has targeted him and a man who jumped him and hit him with a hammer is there.

Blanch said Utah law leaves that decision to the prison. He ordered Cecala to serve concurrent terms, meaning they will run side-by-side, of at least 15 years and up to life for the murder conviction; five years to life for discharge of a firearm, a first-degree felony, and lesser sentences for 12 third-degree felony counts of the same charge.

He ordered consecutive sentences of one to 15 years for obstructing justice and having a weapon despite being a restricted person, both second-degree felonies.