A man was sentenced Monday to 33 years to life behind bars for snatching a 63-year-old woman’s designer purse and briefly dragging her across a parking in La Quinta, causing her head to split open on the pavement.
Rudolfo “Rudy” Rodriguez, 48, was convicted in June of a felony robbery charge — his third strike — in the purse snatching that injured Rica Gordon.
The jury also found true a sentence-enhancing allegation that his actions on April 13, 2009, caused great bodily harm to the victim, who said her health has been poor since her ordeal.
Gordon said she lost her job as a respiratory therapist at Torrance Memorial Hospital due to her head injury.
Rodriguez expressed remorse at the hearing. Gordon said she accepted his apology but asked Riverside County Superior Court Judge Lawrence W. Fry to impose the maximum sentence.
The judge did so, and also denied a defense motion to remove one of Rodriguez’s strikes.
“While his car circled the parking lot rows of Lowe’s (Home Improvement), where there is no motorized or ground security to protect customers, Mr. Rodriguez made the choice, and never looked back,” Gordon said. “His choice changed my life forever as he left me there bleeding on the ground.”
She listed a number of physical and psychological injuries she suffered, including a trauma to her spine, post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression.
“I had nightmares. I shook and cried all the time. I was unable to keep food down. I couldn’t stop reliving the events of that moment over and over again,” Gordon said, adding that she still fears going out in public.
Her daughter, Anne Marie Austin, told Rodriguez she wished he could hear the phone message her mother left as she sat “in a puddle of her own blood waiting for the ambulance.”
“She was so terrified I could hardly recognize her voice. I hope you never have to hear your mom sound like that,” she said.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Tripp said Rodriguez was in the passenger seat of a tan Buick and directed his younger brother, Ricky, to drive up alongside Gordon, who was caught off-guard when she felt someone tugging on her arm in the parking lot of the Lowe’s store on Highway 111.
“Before she even knows what is happening, she is being pulled by the full force of the Buick sedan,” the prosecutor told jurors.
Gordon’s arm was stuck in the purse, and she hit her head on the pavement when she was finally able to let go, he said.
While serving a search warrant in an unrelated case, sheriff’s deputies found Gordon’s Coach bag with her medical card inside, Tripp said. A fingerprint found on the card was analyzed and determined to belong to Rudy Rodriguez, the prosecutor said.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Brenda Miller, tried to poke holes in the identification process, arguing that Gordon partially identified two incorrect men first, even though Rodriguez’s photo was not in the lineup.
The attorney also said her client’s fingerprints were not found in the Buick, which was found parked in his driveway.
Ricky Rodriguez pleaded guilty to a robbery count in April and received a two-year prison sentence. He was also ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to Gordon.