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Forgiveness Expressed at Sentencing of Janessa Ramirez Killer

FRESNO, Calif. - Justice for Janessa Ramirez was finally served on Monday. In court, 25-year old gang member, Brian Cooks, was sentenced to 21 years in prison for the 2015 shooting death of 9-year old Janessa. The young girl was hit by a stray bullet in front of a laundromat in Fresno. She died in her mother's arms.

The family of Janessa has been waiting for this day for years. And while the sentencing could have turned tense between the victim's family and the shooter's family, there was a lot of grace and forgiveness.

On January 18, 2015, two rival gangs were shooting at each other near Jensen and Marks. A stray bullet hit Janessa.

"Sometimes I'm in denial that she's gone," said Janessa's mother, Stacey Gonzales.

At the sentencing, Gonzales spoke directly to her daughter's killer.

She said, "I hope and pray that you find God and make peace for what you have done. I hope you don't forget her face. And I hope you see her face every time you close your eyes."

Cooks read a letter in court, as well.

"I apologize for my ignorance. I truly hope and pray that the family of Janessa Ramirez truly accept my apology and find it in their hearts to forgive me," read Cooks.

Earlier last month, the gang member plead no contest to manslaughter and other charges, and accepted a plea deal. A judge sentenced him to 21 years in prison.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp stated, "There's really no time, there's no number that you can ever put on the value of a child's life."

Smittcamp and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer were present at the sentencing to show their support to Janessa's family.

Dyer cried, "You know, Janessa will always be remembered. I was asked to close the casket for Janessa at her funeral, and that's a memory I'll always have."

Gonzales said she has forgiven Cooks, and hopes the gang violence in the community will come to an end.

Cooks' father, Deric Cooks, also spoke in court, which was sign of mercy and grace exchanged between the families.

"I'm so sorry to ya'll family. The mother, I know it's a hard thing to swallow, thank you for forgiving my son," exclaimed Deric.

Cooks will have to serve at least 85-percent of his sentence before he's eligible for parole. He's also ordered to pay about $17,000 in restitution.


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