MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- For 27 years, the murder of a 17-year-old in Malibu went unsolved. Now, after finally being able to match DNA evidence to the killer, family and friends of the victim have some closure.
It was a day the loved ones of Gladys Arellano had been waiting decades for on Tuesday. They were able to see her suspected killer in court as he pled guilty to kidnapping and voluntary manslaughter.
"It's never enough for having taken a life of such a beautiful soul," said Elizabeth Arellano of her sister Gladys, whose body was found in Topanga Canyon two days after her murder on Super Bowl Sunday in 1996.
Our camera wasn't allowed in court, but a mugshot of Jose Garcia has been released to the public.
Garcia faces 19 years in prison for Gladys Arellano's death.
Gladys Arellano's sisters and best friend told the court what Garcia did nearly destroyed them, as they wondered for more than 25 years what happened to her.
"It was tough. But it felt really good to finally get it off your chest and actually, like, seeing him and you know, releasing it. And having some kind of comfort," said Vanessa Arellano, Gladys Arellano's younger sister.
Janet Ramirez, Gladys Arellano's close friend, said the plea deal gives her some comfort, but it is not enough.
"Nineteen years is never enough, but I have comfort knowing now she can rest, that her murderer is going to be behind bars, because for 25 years I've lived with the guilt of not knowing of what I could have done anything different." Ramirez said.
After being arrested for domestic violence in 2019 , Garcia's DNA was put into the system and a match came back connecting him to Arellano's murder.
Retired Sheriff's detective Joe Purcell handled the cold case investigation.
"The fact is that we can give justice to people and to society. It's really important not to let murders go unresolved. We need to have people pay the debt they owe society," he said.
Garcia is due back in court to be sentenced on August 15.