Gabriel Armandariz took the ultimate revenge…the double murder of his own children.
Look, I’m trying to offer you another opportunity to see our children, his text message read. But as usual you would much rather be with your friends.
Another nasty text from her ex.
Lauren Smith rolled her eyes.
She felt annoyed. Angry.
She’d been doing everything she could to see the kids.
It was Gabriel who was making it impossible. So how dare he send her a text like that?
And she wasn’t even convinced it was Gabriel texting. Probably his new girlfriend had got hold of his phone and was stirring the pot.
If I were you I’d get the hell away from him, Lauren texted back, hoping Gabriel’s new girlfriend would get the message. Looks can be deceiving.
And she should know.
It wasn’t so long ago, Lauren Smith, 28, and Gabriel Armandariz, 32, had been together. And happy.
They had two gorgeous little boys. Gatlin, 2, and Luke, 8 months.
There were nappies to be changed, toys to be tidied away. And they were up and down through the night feeding Luke.
But life was good.
Except for one thing.
Gabriel Armandariz was a man who couldn’t control his temper.
Somehow, he’d got this crazy idea Lauren was sleeping around with other blokes.
They rowed about it. He hit her.
For Lauren, that was the final straw.
She took the kids and left. Moved into a flat of her own about an hours drive from the house she’d shared with Gabriel in Graham, Texas.
Lauren’s relationship with Gabriel was over.
But even though he’d hit her, he’d never so much as raised a finger against the kids.
She’d let them carry on seeing him. He was their dad, after all.
Weeks after the split, Gabriel got in touch.
He’d won tickets to a basketball game in nearby Wichita Falls and wanted to take the boys.
So Lauren arranged for Gatlin and Luke to spend the weekend with their dad. Only, when the time came for Gabriel to drop them back at hers, he didn’t show.
She drove round.
Found the doors locked. The kids inside.
‘Gabriel, don’t do this to me!’ she screamed through the door, desperate to have her sons back.
There was nothing she could do except fight Gabriel in the family court.
She saw a solicitor straightaway. And she prayed they’d be able to formalise a custody arrangement.
A legally-binding custody arrangement.
The hearing was scheduled for 14 April.
But the evening before, 13 April, 2011, that nasty text came.
And within moments, another.
I commend the spirits of these two boys to the Lord, it read. I would much rather be with them than out partying with friends.
Lauren wasn’t out partying with friends. She was at home, getting ready for the custody hearing.
But something about that text message didn’t seem right. And Lauren was sure now the messages were not coming from Gabriel’s new girlfriend…
Lauren’s phone buzzed again.
A picture message.
She opened it.
And in that second, Lauren Smith’s world ended.
A photo. Taken by Gabriel and texted to Lauren’s phone.
Strangled by the cord of a cloth shopping bag.
Before Lauren’s heart had chance to beat again, another picture message flashed up on her mobile.
Gabriel with the boys lying next to him. And the words, We love u, goodbye.
Luke strangled. Gatlin, too.
If Gabriel Armandariz couldn’t have his sons, it seemed he didn’t want anyone else to, either.
Quick as she could, Lauren called the police.
But Gabriel had got there before her. He’d called the police himself and told them what he’d done.
They were already on the way to his house.
There, officers found the bodies of the two little boys.
Wrapped in a tarpaulin sheet. Their tiny feet poking out at the end.
Like the monster he was, Gabriel Armandariz tried to convince police Lauren had made him do it.
‘My girlfriend asked me to kill my babies,’ he cried. ‘What was I supposed to do? My girlfriend told me to kill both of them. What was I supposed to do? I hate her, I hate, I hate her so much.’
But nobody believed Gabriel Armandariz’s crocodile tears.
He was arrested. Charged with two counts of murder. And after four years of legal battle over where the trial should be held, he finally answered to his crimes in a court of law this March.
His lawyer tried to argue diminished responsibility, on account of Gabriel’s mental state.
But in her opening statement to the jury, Gabriel Armandariz’s lawyer broke down in tears, overwhelmed by the senseless tragedy.
‘He is a delusional man who wanted a family,’ she said. ‘The dam is weak and the pressure is great. The hurt is big and he is cracking.’
But the court heard how Gabriel had a history of violence. Not just towards Lauren, but towards previous girlfriends he’d had, too. He was jealous, possessive, and ultimately, the jury believed Gabriel Armandariz was in sound mind when he committed those two wicked murders.
He’d taken the lives of his own sons. Merely to spite their mother.
He was sentenced to life in prison. Without parole.
And so, he’ll die behind bars. For the wicked murder of two babies.
And for sentencing their mum to a lifetime of heartbreak and grief.