- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - Relatives of a woman fatally stabbed by an Oregon butcher castigated the man before he was sentenced to life in prison, describing him as a dog who stole the life of a mother and grandmother.

Five members of Maria Rodriguez’s family wore T-shirts memorializing her during Thursday’s sentencing hearing. Those who addressed Jose Valencia-Gaona in court told him about the damage he had done to their family, the Mail Tribune reported (http://is.gd/TtefEw ).

Rodriguez, who was 38, had a son and daughter and a baby grandchild. Rodriguez’s daughter will soon give birth to a baby who would have been Rodriguez’s second grandchild.

“We love her a great deal - and a dog took her away from us,” said Erin Carrillo, a relative.

Another relative, Claudia Morelo, told Valencia-Gaona she could not forgive him: “For me, you are a cowardly man.”

Valencia-Gaona, 47, declined to look at the relatives or make a statement. The Medford man who worked at the Fiesta Market & Restaurant will be eligible for parole in 25 years.

A Jackson County jury convicted him of murder Tuesday in a prosecution that has taken more than two years.

Two earlier trials ended as mistrials. During the first, court officials accidentally gave a list of witnesses to jurors. The botched trial became an issue in the judge’s election defeat.

At the second trial, a witness identified Valencia-Gaona to the jury after being instructed not to.

Prosecutors said Valencia-Gaona stabbed Rodriguez because he was jealous after their breakup. Relatives, however, said Rodriguez was not Valencia-Gaona’s girlfriend, they were only friends.

A knife with Valencia-Gaona’s DNA on the handle and Rodriguez’s DNA on the blade was recovered by investigators. Phone records showed he had tried to contact Rodriguez more than a dozen times before stabbing her and had sent a text message saying he would see her in hell.

Valencia-Gaona went to the Fiesta Market after the stabbing. He said his mother was ill or dead in Mexico and asked to receive his paycheck in cash. Police captured him near the railroad tracks in central Medford.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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