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EXCLUSIVE: Jurors speak out over death sentence for cop killer

John Hernandez Felix was sentenced to death Friday for the murders of Palm Springs Police Officers Jose “Gil” Vega and Lesley Zerebny.

On Oct. 8, 2016, Felix shot and killed Vega and Zerebny while the officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call at Felix’s family home on the 2700 block of Cypress Avenue.

Nearly three years later, in May 2019, a jury recommended Felix receive the death penalty after finding him guilty of all 11 counts related to the deaths of the officers. This included first-degree murder, the attempted murders of six other Palm Springs police officers, unlawful possession of an assault weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and unlawful possession of ammunition by a prohibited person.

Check Out Our Complete Coverage of the Felix Trial

He was also found guilty of the special circumstance allegations of murdering police officers and committing multiple murders, which made him eligible for the death penalty.

On Friday, Judge Anthony Villalobos sentenced Felix to death for the murders of Vega and Zerebny. Felix was also sentenced to a total of 368 years in prison for the other charges.

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Following the sentencing, News Channel 3 spoke exclusively with several jurors who served on this case.

“It was very difficult to hold it all in for the six weeks we had to hold it in, and to see what we saw, to hear that we heard, to relive with the victims, with the families, everything was traumatic. It really was for us,” said Diane Brabec, juror #1 for the trial.

Brabec said knowing there was a life on the line and there were two lives lost, she kept waiting for the defense to give her something to make her think Felix wasn’t guilty of the crime.

“I tried to remain open-minded through the entire trial and if my mind tried going one way, I kept reminded myself that i haven’t heard anything,” Barbec said.

Another juror said they didn’t buy Felix’s defense.

“I didn’t think it held any water otherwise I wouldn’t have voted the way I did,” said Patty Yurkovich, juror #7 on the trial.

“We all had a pretty open mind about what was going on and the evidence that was shown but when it came down to making a decision it was an easy decision to make,” said Salvador Moreno, said juror #10.

Moreno said that hearing from the victim’s families and seeing evidence photos had a big impact on his decision to vote in favor of the death penalty for Felix.

“It’s really like how can someone do this. When you are looking at photos with gunshot wounds of their face, it’s just like why would somebody do this in my mind,” Moreno said.

Jurors also said impact statements from the Vega and Zerebny families helped to sway them toward a guilty verdict and a recommendation for the death sentence for Felix.

Yurkovich said the jurors discussed the case and came to a unanimous decision in one vote.

“I think it’s the most justice in this case. Obviously taking innocent lives, in any case, for the families I think it’s what’s appropriate to do in this case,” Moreno said.

Jurors said Felix himself was seen smirking, smiling or laughing during the trial and seemed relatively uninterested in what was happening. One juror added that while her heart goes out to the officers’ families, she has sympathy for the Felix family as it was “a lose/lose situation.”​​​​​​​

Felix’s attorney, John Dolan, said he will file an appeal within the next 60 days.

Stay with News Channel 3 for any updates.

KESQ News Team

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