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Jury recommends life without parole for mother convicted in crucifix murder case

OKLAHOMA CITY - A jury has recommended life without parole for an Oklahoma mother found guilty of beating her daughter to death.

It took the jury just minutes on Thursday to convict 51-year-old Juanita Gomez of first-degree murder for the fatal beating of her daughter, Geneva Gomez.

In August of 2016, 33-year-old Geneva was found laying on the ground of her mother's home near 15th and McKinley Ave. with her body placed in the position of a cross with a large crucifix placed on her chest.

Rosary beads, a crucifix and a religious medallion were also found lodged in her throat and mouth.

"You would think maybe putting a photograph of her child on the presenter would trigger some emotion, but it didn’t appear to," said Assistant DA Suzanne Lavenue after the trial.

Gevena's boyfriend, Frankie Merlos, found her lifeless body and told News 4 in a 2016 interview the images would be embedded in his head forever. Merlos testified in the trial this week.

"I just can’t believe a mother would do that to her own daughter, you know? For what? And, just left her there like it was nothing," he told us in 2016.

Juanita told police she thought her daughter was "possessed by the devil" and forced a crucifix down her throat, watching her die.

During witness testimony, Medical Examiner Dr. Clay Nichols told the jury one of the contributing factors of death was blunt force trauma to the face and head.

The state's position was the rosary beads and medallion found in Geneva's mouth were staged by Juanita.

"I think she thought that maybe just the thought of an exorcism occurring, that would make somebody think perhaps she had a mental illness or was insane or something," Lavenue said.

Speaking with reporters after the verdict, Lavenue said what remains unknown is the true motive. Prosecutors did, however, note Juanita had recently fought with Merlos.

"There were indications that they were on Backpage, that there was possibly massaging and maybe more going on. And, we didn’t know if [Merlos] didn’t want  [Geneva] to do that anymore and she told her mother ‘I’m not going to participate in this business’. That’s pure speculation," Lavenue said.

Defense attorneys for Juanita declined to speak on camera. They did not present any witnesses during the course of the trial. During closing arguments, they contended the state failed to prove Juanita intended to kill her daughter.

Lavenue argued otherwise, arguing the crime scene spoke for itself.

"The crime scene was so well documented, even regarding things that weren’t visible to the naked eye. There was clean up on the carpet. There was clean up on the walls," she said. "There were actually three different walls were there was blood spatter and, additionally, the carpet was dry by the time the body was actually discovered, so she had been in that house for some period of time."

The formal sentencing date has been set for Feb. 12.