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Life without parole for Guatemalan man who stabbed Norwalk woman to death in 2012

The man accused of raping and killing a disabled Norwalk woman as she was watering in her backyard has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, according to Los Angeles County district attorney records. 

Luis Fernando Diofron Lemus, 25, pleaded guilty June 29 to one count of murder in the stabbing death of Denise Louise Battey, a 50-year-old black woman who worked as a  systems analyst for the Social Security Administration. 

Investigators said Battey was in her backyard in the early morning of Aug. 10, 2012, when Diofron Lemus climbed over her fence and dragged her into her home, where he raped and repeatedly stabbed her.  

Battey was a fitness buff and vegetarian who woke at 4 every morning to exercise and water her garden, even though a back injury hampered her movement and kept her in constant pain, according to her twin sister, Annise Battey. 

Diofron Lemus was 22 at the time, visiting the United States on a visa, and staying with a family next to Battey’s home.

After he killed Battey, Diofron Lemus fled the United States, first to Mexico and then back to Guatemala, said  L.A. County Sheriff’s Det. Ray Lugo. 

A warrant for his arrest was  issued in September 2012, but he wasn’t found until December 2014, after authorities put his photo in a popular Guatemalan newspaper, offering a reward of $1,500 for his capture, nearly the equivalent of a year’s salary for many Guatemalans.

Diofron Lemus was arrested a few days later, in the home where he was living with his wife and baby, Lugo said. He was extradited to Los Angeles in spring 2015 and two years later negotiated a plea deal with the district attorney’s office. 

Prosecutors agreed to drop the rape allegation, said spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. In exchange, Diofron Lemus pleaded guilty to murder with the special allegations that he used a knife to kill Battey, and that the killing was committed during a burglary. 

Before the sentencing on July 19, Lugo said members of Battey’s family took the stand to confront Diofron Lemus as part of their statements to the court,  nearly five years after she died.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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