A Westbury man convicted of murdering his estranged girlfriend maintained his innocence Monday as he entered a Mineola courthouse to be sentenced.

Leonardo Valdez-Cruz faces a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole when he goes before Nassau County Court Judge John Kase to be sentenced on first-degree murder and second-degree burglary charges in the March 19, 2009, slaying of Jo'Anna Bird.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I'm innocent," Valdez-Cruz, 24, said as he was escorted by police into Nassau County Court Monday morning. "I love Jo'Anna Bird."

Prosecutors said Valdez-Cruz terrorized Bird for months before finally breaking into her New Cassel apartment and stabbing her to death.

Several relatives of both Valdez-Cruz and Bird appeared anxious as they waited outside the courtroom. Some jurors from the trial also returned to the courthouse to witness the sentencing.

Leonardo Valdez-Cruz, seen arriving at the Nassau County Courthouse, was found guilty of first-degree murder and other charges on April 30 in the torture and stabbing of his estranged girlfriend, Jo'Anna Bird, 24, in her New Cassel apartment in 2009. (April 13, 2010)