CASTLE ROCK • A man accused of killing his girlfriend by dragging her behind a car with a tow strap around her neck pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder, accepting a deal that lets him avoid a possible death sentence.

A judge immediately sentenced Jose Luis Rubi-Nava, 38, to life in prison without parole for the September 2006 death of Luz Maria Franco Fierros, 49.

Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty but agreed to the life sentence if Rubi-Nava pleaded guilty to murder. They will also drop kidnapping and other charges.

Franco Fierros’ disfigured body was found at the end of a 11/2-mile trail of blood near Castle Rock Authorities say they could not immediately tell if the victim was a man or a woman, and it took three days to identify her.

Investigators said Rubi-Nava told them Franco Fierros was alive when he began dragging her. An autopsy found she died from strangulation and massive head wounds.

Authorities said Rubi-Nava was an illegal immigrant from Mexico, and Franco Fierros was also from Mexico.

One of her daughters, Blanca Anel Leyva-Franco, listened to the proceedings by phone from her home in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. She addressed District Judge Paul King before he sentenced Rubi-Nava.

"What my mother taught us was we really are nobody to decide what happens to other people’s lives," she said through an interpreter. "We just want you to apply the law and do what the law requires so it doesn’t happen to anybody else."

District Attorney Carol Chamber said in a written statement that she considered the costs of seeking the death penalty and consulted with Franco Fierros’ family and investigators before agreeing to the plea deal.

She said the agreement gave Rubi-Nava "a limited opportunity to confess responsibility."
Rubi-Nava sat stoically while King asked him questions to determine whether he understood his plea.

Rubi-Nava’s attorneys battled for months to avoid the death penalty. They sought to have him declared mentally retarded, which would have barred his execution under Colorado law, but King ruled against them.

A Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent testified in 2007 that Rubi-Nava told him he and Franco Fierros had a violent argument hours before her death, and that Rubi-Nava accused her of seeing other men.

Franco Fierros told Rubi-Nava, "You’re worthless as a man. That’s why I have other men," according to a transcript of the agent’s interview read in court.

Deputy District Attorn
ey Leslie Hansen told King that Rubi-Nava had a wife in Mexico and another girlfriend in the United States.

The plea agreement requires Rubi-Nava to pay $9,200 in restitution and $91,000 in prosecution costs.

Franco Fierros is also survived by two other daughters, a son, her mother and two siblings. ... irlfriend/