City News Service
A man accused of strangling his estranged wife, then putting her body in a car and setting it ablaze at UCSD, must stand trial on murder and arson charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Julio Angel Garcia-Puente, arrested Nov. 5 in Tijuana and turned over to San Diego police, faces more than 25 years to life in prison if convicted in the death of 38-year-old Lorena Gonzalez.
Prosecutors allege that Garcia, 50, killed his estranged wife around Oct. 30, sometime before her car was found ablaze in a UCSD parking lot off Voigt Drive in La Jolla.
While extinguishing the blaze, firefighters discovered the victim's charred body inside. Two of Gonzalez's front teeth were found in her throat from a blow to the face, and her neck was fractured in three places, according to testimony at the preliminary hearing.
Garcia told investigators that his estranged wife's death was an accident, the prosecutor said.
Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said Garcia thought Gonzalez was seeing someone else and confronted her about it. He said he pushed her when she slapped him, and she hit her head on some furniture and died, the prosecutor said.
Garcia told police he panicked, wrapped the body in a blanket and put it in the car, ultimately setting it on fire, Rooney said.
Gonzalez's pastor testified that he knew the couple was having marital problems, Rooney said.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Jeffrey Fraser ruled that enough evidence had been presented for the defendant to stand trial, which was scheduled for Aug. 31.
A readiness conference was set for Aug. 16.