Cruz, 28, pleaded guilty in June to murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of 21-year-old Jazmyn Jeppson, who was killed in the violent crash as Cruz fled a series of carjackings. Cruz also admitted to robbery, reduced to a second-degree felony, while two additional charges of aggravated robbery, first-degree felony, were dismissed as part of a deal with prosecutors.
At the time of her death, Jeppson had just returned home to Farmington after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Houston, Texas. She had been home less than two months when she was killed.
As he left the courtroom, Jeppson's father declined to comment on the sentencing, saying only that "two families are hurting." The father then waited for Cruz's family, greeting the man's tearful mother with a hug and shaking hands with other friends and relatives.
Following Cruz's arrest, defense attorney Todd Utzinger said he had to explain that it wasn't advisable for him to communicate with Jeppson's family while the case was ongoing.
Cruz had exchanged letters with the family and received printouts from Jeppson's Facebook page, Utzinger explained. When the attorney asked why, Cruz replied, "I felt like I owed it to her and her family to know who she was," according to Utzinger.
Utzinger said Cruz didn't want the case to go to trial, even with the chance of reducing the murder charge to manslaughter, in order to spare Jeppson's family further grief. With the case now resolved, Cruz hopes to someday meet the family.
"I think this shows genuine concern for the family and other victims," he said.
Cruz told 2nd District Judge David Hamilton that thinking back on his drug-fueled crime spree on Feb. 1, he wishes he had stopped for even a moment to think about what he was doing and where his choices could lead him.