JOSHUA TREE — Rafael Ari Aikens will never see the outside of a prison. Judge Rodney Cortez was clear about that at Aikens’ sentencing hearing Friday morning.
Aikens, 24 years old, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison followed by two consecutive life sentences for the murders of Christy McKissic and her mother, Renee Metcalf, in their Twentynine Palms home on March 23, 2017.
Aikens’ trial, which spanned over two weeks, ended Aug. 22 when a jury found him guilty of all charges: two counts of first-degree murder with enhancements for the use of a firearm.
On Friday, Cortez said he agreed with the jury’s findings and before making a final sentencing, he opened the floor to the victims’ loved ones for impact statements.
“Today would have been Christy’s 35th birthday, a day that neither she nor Renee will ever celebrate again,” said longtime family friend Kerry Beck. “We have given up asking why. We know why and we know by whom.”
Beck said she and the others in Metcalf and McKissic’s lives will forever feel that Aikens stole them away from the world.
“Her not being here is something I miss every single day,” said Deborah Johnson, Metcalf’s sister.
“To say our lives were impacted is putting it lightly,” said friend Cryssa Ferro. “My heart will forever ache in their absence.”
Deputy district attorney Justin Crocker told Cortez that McKissic’s daughter wanted to come back into California for the sentencing but the trial had taken an emotional toll on her.
The daughter was only 10 years old at the time of the murders and was present in the home while her mother and grandmother were shot and killed. Besides the killer, she was the only witness to the crime and testified during the jury trial.
“I think the record should show that (she) initially wanted to speak and so did her now guardian and Renee’s other daughter, Nicole, but since the verdict, the emotional toll this has taken, it just was too difficult,” Crocker said.
Cortez then declared his sentence. As a presiding judge in the Joshua Tree courthouse for several years, Cortez said he has been involved with more than 30 murder trials and this was the most evil act he had ever seen in a case.
“I could not recall the level of evil in any of those that I saw in this case,” he said. “This was based purely on unadulterated evil.”
Cortez said the murders of Metcalf and McKissic were an execution, not a killing, and that McKissic’s daughter lost a part of her life that will never return.
“This is something that will trouble her for most likely the rest of her life,” he said, after stating he would be sentencing Aikens to the maximum sentence.
“Mr. Aikens will never see a day of freedom in his life and rightfully so,” he said. “He earned the sentence he will have imposed upon him today.”
Cortez sentenced Aikens to 50 years to life followed by two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Aikens was escorted out of the courtroom and transferred to state prison, where he will serve out his sentence.