NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Desiree Alvarado was a good mother who kept a smile on her face even as she battled lupus.

The 38-year-old New Brunswick woman was proud to tell people she was about to become a grandmother. 

And she would have been proud to watch her sons graduate middle school and enter high school. But that never happened, friends and family told a Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea recently.

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Alvarado was gunned down in 2017. She will never be able to see any of the milestones in her children’s or grandchildren’s lives. That’s why, family and friends urged the judge against any leniency toward Christian Cortes, who pled guilty to shooting Alvarado to death. 

Rea sentenced Cortes to 16 years in prison on Aug. 28 after he had pled guilty to a charge of aggravated manslaughter on April 9 in what he testified was a case of mistaken identity.

Cortes shot and killed Alvarado, 38, on the morning of July 14, 2017 on Seventh Street between Livingston and Joyce Kilmer avenues in New Brunswick.

Cortes was indicted in October 2017 on first-degree murder charges. Two other charges against Cortes, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, were dismissed.

At the sentencing, assistant prosecutor Scott LaMountain said Cortes was in New Brunswick to purchase marijuana. After buying the marijuana, Cortes said he was robbed and he suspected Manuel Garcia, Alvarado’s son, of setting up the robbery.

According to LaMountain, Cortes returned later and fired two bullets into a parked car, intending to shoot Garcia. Cortes said he did not know Alvarado was inside since the windows were tinted.

Rea said Alvarado was behind the wheel of a BMW owned by her son, Manuel Garcia, who supplied marijuana to Cortes.

Rea said a bullet fired from Cortes’ 9 mm handgun struck Alvarado in the neck.

Cortes must serve 85% of the 16 years before he is eligible to be considered for parole.

Several friends and family members spoke at the sentencing.

A relative read a letter written by Alvarado’s son, Joshua.

“Her laughter or to see her smile or her dancing around the house and even when she was sick with lupus, she was always happy,” read the letter. “My heart is shattered into a million pieces without my mom. I feel this emptiness in my heart.”

According to a letter written by Alvarado’s daughter, Victoria, “It has been so hard on every single holiday and birthday without her. It’s a pain that no one would ever understand. I don’t understand why someone would ever anything like this, especially knowing that she had a family. … Now I won’t be able to hear her say ‘I love you’ again.”

Cortes’ attempted to withdraw his guilty plea the day before the sentencing but was denied.

“I tried to get a fair trial in the hopes the truth would come to light,” Cortes said at the sentencing. “Today an innocent man will be sent to prison and your family, as well as mine, will be failed by the courts. So, today I put it in God’s hands.”

When Rea asked if he was referring to the Alvarado’s family, Cortes said, “Yeah.”