Murder Suspect in Burning Vehicle Case Will Face Trial
Carlsbad resident Julio Angel Garcia-Puente, 50, will go to trial for murder and arson charges following a hearing held March 30. He is suspected of killing his estranged wife — 38-year-old Lorena Gonzalez, whose body was found in a burning vehicle in the P701 parking lot next to the UCSD baseball field.Written by Regina Ip
04 April 2011
At the preliminary hearing to determine if probable cause exists to indict Garcia-Puente, San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser concluded that the prosecutors provided sufficient evidence for the case to stand trial, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on March 30.
San Diego firefighters testified that they arrived in the parking lot at approximately 8:30 p.m., when they found the vehicle in flames. According to the Union-Tribune, firefighter Justin Price said that when he opened one of the car doors, he saw a head and an arm. Investigators determined that the vehicle was intentionally set on fire.
According to the Union-Tribune, deputy district attorney Nicole Rooney testified that Gonzalez died of strangulation, as three bones in her neck were fractured. The Carlsbad resident also experienced blunt-force trauma to her abdomen and the back of her neck. Some of Gonzalez’s teeth, porcelain facings attached to a metal bridge, were found in her throat.
On Nov. 6, Garcia-Puente told a detective that he went to Gonzalez’s apartment the day her body was found to give her money. He said he believed she was involved in another relationship.
Prosecutors said Garcia-Puente initially said he argued with Gonzalez and left the apartment, but later changed the details of his story. He informed police that he wanted to have sex with Gonzalez, but she refused. Garcia-Puente called her a prostitute and the two began physically fighting.
Garcia-Puente said he pushed Gonzalez, which caused her to fall and hit her head on a piece of furniture. A search warrant was taken out on Gonzalez’s home, where no evidence of the struggle was found.
When she died, Garcia-Puente said he panicked and wrapped her body in a sheet. Prosecutors said he then drove the body to UCSD and lit it on fire to destroy evidence.
Garcia-Puente is currently held in county jail pending his trial. As a Mexican national, he has an immigration hold.
If convicted, Garcia-Puente faces 25 years to life in prison.