Vanessa Pham murder: Julio Blanco Garcia sentenced to 49 years

Photo of Vanessa Pham.

(WJLA) - Breaking his silence just moments before being sentenced, convicted murderer Julio Blanco Garcia apologized to the family and friends of 19-year-old Vanessa Pham, whom he murdered in 2010.

“I hope my punishment will help them in their grieving process," he said.

In August 2013, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder for the brutal killing of the young college student. And while prosecutors had hoped for a life sentence, Judge Jane Marum Roush of the Fairfax County Court sentenced Garcia to 49 years in prison.

On Friday, prosecutors also laid out what they believe was the true motive for Pham’s murder:

"We maintain and we have always maintained that Mr. Garcia abducted Vanessa to rape her," said attorney Ray Morrogh. "That's why he stabbed her, because she bucked when she realized what was going to happen."

Blanco Garcia’s lawyers argued that he was high on PCP at the time of the killing, and in court, they asked the judge to consider a lighter prison sentence.

"It's horrible, we understand -- in no means are we suggesting that Mr. Blanco Garcia is a hero," said defense attorney{ }Alberto Salvado. "We are only suggesting that he has a conscience and he's taking responsibility."

Pham’s devastated family was in court, but did not speak. Instead, prosecutors read from a letter written by Vanessa’s mother.

"I have a tombstone where I go to visit Vanessa, and all i can do is place flowers and have a one-way conversation," part of it read.