Estranged husband pleads not guilty to murder, arson

By City News Service

The estranged husband of a woman whose charred body was discovered in a burned-out car on the UC San Diego campus pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and arson charges.

Julio Angel Garcia-Puente, 50, is accused of killing 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, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Cooper alleged.

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 the prosecutor did not reveal the cause of death.

“The defendant destroyed evidence by burning the victim’s body,” Cooper told Judge Richard Whitney.

The judge set bail at $1 million and scheduled a status conference for Nov. 22.

Garcia faces nearly 26 years to life in prison if convicted, Cooper said.

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

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