Estranged husband of UCSD burn victim faces preliminary hearing in March

By City News Service

A preliminary hearing for the estranged husband of a woman whose charred body was discovered in a burned-out car on the UC San Diego campus will take place in March, a judge ordered Monday.

Prosecutors allege that Julio Angel Garcia-Puente, 50, killed his 38-year-old wife on Oct. 30, sometime before her car was found ablaze in a parking lot off Voigt Drive at the university campus in La Jolla.

While extinguishing the blaze, firefighters discovered Lorena Gonzalez’ charred body inside the destroyed vehicle.

A postmortem examination determined that the woman was a homicide victim. The autopsy results have been sealed and prosecutors have not revealed the cause of death.

Garcia pleaded not guilty nearly two weeks ago to murder and arson charges.

At a short hearing today, Judge David Szumowski scheduled the preliminary hearing — in which a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to order a trial — for March 10.

A reason for the lengthy delay was not available because substitute lawyers appeared for both sides.

After Garcia’s first court appearance, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Cooper said the defendant faces nearly 26 years to life in prison if convicted.

Cooper said the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, but did not say which country he was from. He was arrested in Tijuana on Nov. 5 and turned over to San Diego police detectives.

He was previously described by authorities as an unemployed transient who frequented Carlsbad and San Marcos.