A Seville court handed down a 20-year prison sentence to the murderer of 17-year-old Marta del Castillo, whose body has still not been found three years after the crime.
Miguel Carcaño, 21, was found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend with an ashtray, then disposing of the body with the help of other people.
Three other suspects in the case have been acquitted, including Carcaño's stepbrother and the latter's girlfriend.
Last spring, a court also acquitted Javier García — who was underage at the time of the crime — of murder and rape, but convicted him of covering up for Carcaño.
The prosecution requested 52 years for Carcaño for murder, rape and attacking the moral integrity of Marta's family.
The victim's father, Antonio del Castillo, said on Friday that the court's decision "makes no sense," as it acquits three out of the four suspects, making it seem as if Carcaño killed Marta and got rid of her body by himself.
"There is no justice in this country," he said indignantly, promising to "keep fighting" and to appeal the decision. "Eva [Marta's mother] is upstairs crying, devastated; she cannot believe it and neither can we."
During the trial, the accused offered their apologies to the victim's relatives, yet none revealed where her body might be. In his last statements to the court, Carcaño said: "I apologize to Marta's family. It was not my intention to cause them so much pain. If I knew where the body was, I would say it."
During the course of these three years, the main suspect gave wildly different accounts of the events of January 24, 2009. At first he confessed to the crime and said he and a friend threw the body into the Guadalquivir river, which led to an extensive but fruitless search by the police. In March, he changed his story and said he and a different friend raped and killed Marta, then threw her body into a trash container, leading to another fruitless search in the municipal dump. Yet later, he retracted on the rape element.
A psychiatric study of Miguel Carcaño found him to be lacking any pathologies that might account for his behavior. The young man was described as "a self-centered person who has trouble establishing strong emotional links, understanding others and putting himself in their place."
There was one element of surprise in the trial. A new witness, a taxi driver, testified that he took Carcaño's stepbrother, Javier Delgado, from a drinks bar to the apartment where the crime took place. This testimony cast serious doubts on Delgado's alibi and that of his girlfriend, María García, who had said she was studying at home that night and that Javier showed up to keep her company.
The judge in charge of the case, Francisco de Asís Molina, also sentenced Carcaño to pay 340,000 euros in damages to the family of Marta del Castillo. The prosecuting attorney had asked for the accused to pay an additional 616,319 euros to cover the costs of the fruitless police search.
The same judge has also asked the police to consider a new search at a different spot that was recently suggested by the victim's maternal grandfather, José Antonio Casanueva. This man told the judge that he found a blanket and two plastic bags in a deserted area known as Ruta del Agua, located very near the apartment where Carcaño used to live. Casanueva said this road is impracticable and not a place where people would go for a walk; he also noted that the body could have been wrapped in a blanket.