Warning: Details in this story are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A judge sentenced Lamont Johnson to 25 and a half years after he was found guilty of second-degree murder and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for killing his ex-girlfriend Bellamy Gamboa in front of their young children.
Johnson didn't appear to have any reaction when the verdict was read after about two hours of deliberations.
But for Gamboa's family, the reaction was relief.
"I'm glad this is finally over. We can move on with our lives," said Emmanuel Gamboa, Bellamy's father.
Family members sat through every day of the four-day trial.
"It was very stressful — a couple of sleepless nights," Emmanuel said.
During the four-day trial, jurors were shown video of Johnson confessing to killing Gamboa and video of him re-enacting where he put Gamboa's body into a dumpster in Chesapeake.
During closing arguments, Johnson's attorney used a Jenga set to say Gamboa and Johnson's relationship was unstable and he snapped. They argued Johnson should be found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Prosecutors argued Johnson deserved to be convicted of murder.
"Dumpsters are meant for trash, not people," said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Janee Joslin.
Joslin said she hopes the case sounds a strong message that killing a mother of four is unacceptable. "This crime affected the entire city of Virginia Beach," she said.
Following the conviction, the jury then recommended Johnson serve a 25-and-a-half year sentence. The judge will rule in August about whether or not he agrees with the recommendation.
Gamboa's family is glad justice was served.
"I don't know if it's really closure yet," Gamboa's sister, Charisse, said. "We haven't been able to move on. We don't know yet, but we're satisfied."
After three days of the prosecution presenting their case, the defense said they had no evidence to present on Thursday afternoon. On Friday, jurors received their instructions from the judge, both sides presented closing arguments and then deliberations began.
According to court documents, on July 1, 2018, Johnson and Gamboa had an argument about paying their rent. With one of their 20-month-old twins in his arms, Johnson shoved Gamboa down a flight of stairs, then tripped and fell down after her.
Gamboa attempted to call police. Court documents say that Johnson put the baby down in a pack-n-play, then shoved Gamboa to the ground and choked her to death in front of the twins.
Johnson wrapped Gamboa’s body in a comforter, put trash bags around her feet and head and tied her with a computer cord. He left the twins alone and went to buy cigarettes, a drink and put gas in his car before returning to stuff Gamboa’s body in his trunk.
Johnson allegedly placed her body in a dumpster in Chesapeake; the contents of the dumpster were later taken to a trash site in Portsmouth, where they were shredded into very small pieces and incinerated.
Gamboa's body was never recovered.
Johnson then gathered up some of Gamboa’s belongings and left her car next to a dumpster in the Lake Edward neighborhood of Virginia Beach. He took her phone with him on this trip but destroyed it and tossed it into the dumpster.
Multiple people contacted the Virginia Beach Police Department when Gamboa did not show up for work or her teenage son’s baseball game the next day.
The police department and members of the community searched for Gamboa for countless hours over the month of July. Johnson never assisted in the search for Gamboa.
On July 28, 2018, Johnson was arrested on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for leaving the twins home alone. During a lengthy interview with detectives, Johnson finally confessed to killing Gamboa and disposing of her body in a dumpster off South Military Highway in Chesapeake.
Police searched Johnson’s phone and determined he searched for dumpster trash sites and other incriminating information. On July 29, 2018, Johnson was charged with Gamboa’s murder.
Johnson's attorneys attempted to have the case thrown out on Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence for the case to constitute a murder charge, but the judge ruled against their motions and said the case can go forward.