Ricardo Escobedo Jr. was collecting a drug lord’s meth debt when he shot a 42-year-old Ralston woman in the head, killing her.

Escobedo broke into a Ralston apartment on Oct. 18, 2013 to collect money from Aimee Kearns, 42, who had run more than 10 pounds of meth for the Latin Kings cartel.

In the course of acting as the cartel’s heavy, Escobedo panicked and shot Kearns in her garden-level apartment at Orleans Square, 84th and L Streets. When DNA connected him to the crime, Escobedo — 28 now, 22 then — refused to give names of the man who was with him or the gang leaders he was working for.

Escobedo had pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and weapon use and faced anywhere from 25 years to life in prison.

This week, Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon said he wasn’t inclined to give Escobedo mercy — noting that Escobedo gave Kearns none. In turn, Bataillon imposed a life sentence. He tacked on 40 years for weapon use.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said the sentence was appropriate, considering the brutality involved.

He pointed to the importance of DNA collection laws for known felons. Kearns’ slaying had gone unsolved for six years. Then Escobedo was convicted of a drug charge in Iowa. He was forced to submit a DNA sample.

Run through a national database of DNA profiles, Escobedo’s prison sample connected him to blood that was found on a broken window at the apartment in which Kearns lived.

The DNA test indicated that the chances of the blood belonging to anyone but Escobedo were 1 in 1.2 quintillion. A quintillion is a 1 with 18 zeros.

Kearns had moved to Omaha from St. Joseph, Missouri, about a year before she was killed. Neighbors told police that they heard a gunshot and glass breaking before seeing two men in dark clothing run across the parking lot and hop into a Lincoln Town Car or similar vehicle.

The men took Kearns’ laptop, but left other valuable items behind.

Officers found Kearns face down in her apartment. An autopsy revealed that amphetamines were in her system at the time of her death.

“It really shows, yet again, how important the (DNA database) is,” Kleine said. “It’s where we got the DNA hit that solved this case.

“Now, he’s put away for the rest of his life. He will never have an opportunity to do anything to anyone again.”

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