The mother of a young man who was brutally murdered and thrown off a cliff in Azusa is outraged after learning her son's suspected killers had special charges dismissed in court Friday morning.
The dismissals came under new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
The mother, Desiree Andrade, tells FOX 11 she saw her son's alleged killers smirk in court earlier in the day as all their special circumstance charges were dismissed, meaning none of them will face life without parole.
"It's sick," Andrade said. "This is all sick."
"I felt let down by this justice system," she added.
Her son, 20-year-old Julian Andrade, was viciously murdered in May 2018 by five suspects who thought he stole some of their weed.
"They brutally murdered my son," said the grieving mother.
[WARNING: The following details of the 2018 murder are extremely graphic and may not be suitable for some viewers.]
The suspects are accused of repeatedly beating and stabbing Julian Andrade for several minutes until he lost consciousness. The suspects then drove up Highway 39 in Azusa to the mountains to toss Andrade's body. However, during that drive, prosecutors say the suspects stomped on his head when they realized Andrade was still alive.
The suspects threw Andrade off the cliff and heard him still struggling. One of the suspects went down to attack Andrade some more.
Julian Andrade's body was found two days after the deadly incident.
"Every day I miss my son," said Julian's mother Desiree. "I wake up thinking of him. I have panic attacks thinking about the pain that he went through and that I was not there to help.
The suspects were charged with special circumstances of deadly weapon, kidnapping and robbery. These charges would have put them away for life without parole, if convicted. But under Gascón's sweeping policy reforms, all those special charges were dismissed in court on Friday.
The devastated mother said two of her son's alleged killers were giddy over the news.
"Smirking from ear to ear. One of the lawyers giving one of them a fist bump on his soulder, like 'Good job, way to go.' Really?" she said. "They thought my son was dead three different times, and yet, they continued to beat my son to death. You're going to tell me those aren't murderers?"
Friday's developments could mean that even if the suspects are all convicted of the murder, they could be eligible for parole down the line, possibly as early as 20 to 30 years.
For Desiree Andrade, the dismissal was a slap in the face to her and her son's memory.
"He and I were inseparable," she said. "Now, I've got to explain to my grandkids one day, 'Grandma, what happened to my dad?' And I'm going to have to say what? I don't ever want to share these details."
Desiree Andrade says Gascón's office never reached out about her son's case. Now, the mother is on a crusade to bring and preserve justice for her son.
"I don't ever want to stand here and tell my grandkids, 'You know what? The law changed and I just sat back and watched,'" Desiree Andrade said. "Absolutely not. I'm going to fight for him."