“I don’t know what happened between you and my brother, but you didn’t have to take his life.”
That’s what the sister of a murdered gay man told Dennis Lepage, now 64, on July 30 – 45 years after Alvaro Marquez Espeleta, 28, was strangled in his San Diego home.
“We had no open casket because of what you did,” said Alicia Espeleta Almeyda, the victim’s sister.
Lepage pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on June 30. He was to have been sentenced Friday, but it was delayed until August 30 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Halgren.
Five relatives of Espeleta attended the hearing so they could tell Lepage how this homicide impacted their family.
The murder, which occurred Dec. 31, 1975, was unsolved until there was a DNA and fingerprint match with Lepage in 2019. He was arrested in Troy, New York, and extradited here.
Lepage told police he killed Espeleta in self-defense, claiming Espeleta tried to have sex with him after he invited him to a party in his apartment in the 3200 block of Reynard Way. Lepage admitted to hitting Espeleta with an ashtray that broke into six pieces, cutting Lepage, and causing him to bleed onto a bathroom towel that was preserved as evidence.
Espeleta’s parents never had closure “because his life was prematurely taken away,” said Almeyda, who wept at times. “He was living his dream, serving the United States in the Navy.”
“He was very thoughtful and a disciplined person,” said Alfredo Espeleta, the victim’s brother who is now 75 years old. “Everybody liked him.”
Alvaro Espeleta’s life was “full of opportunities,” that were denied him because he was killed, said his brother. He worked as a Navy dental technician.
Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox said Lepage will be sentenced to five years to life in prison, which was the term for second-degree murder in 1975.
“He’s going to serve time,” said Fox.
Lepage remains in jail without bail.