VISTA, Calif. — A man accused of stabbing his estranged wife to death in Carlsbad last weekend pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a first-degree murder charge and was ordered held on $5 million bail.
In setting the high bail amount for Pedro Zurita, Judge Sim von Kalinowski called the 49-year-old defendant a danger to the community and a flight risk.
He faces 26 years to life behind bars if convicted of killing 37-year- old Ariflor Gonzalez about 7 p.m. Saturday at a business park on Van Allen Way, where they both worked.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Gust said Zurita and Gonzales had been married for 22 years and had four children together — the youngest is about 3 years old — but separated in December.
“The defendant felt that the victim was moving on from the relationship and had rebuffed his attempts to reconcile,” Gust said.
The prosecutor alleged that Zurita, a Mexican citizen, confronted Gonzalez inside their workplace on Saturday evening, wielding a knife he had purchased that morning at Walmart.
“She tried to get away from him,” Gust said. “She ran out of the building bleeding and ran into the parking lot where he pursued her, chased her and stabbed her multiple times.
“Portions of this pursuit were captured on surveillance cameras …,” the prosecutor said. “She sustained over 30 stab wounds to a major portion of her body, including the carotid artery, the jugular vein and the trachea.”
Gust said Zurita then sped off and tossed the knife out his car window before being arrested within an hour.
Gonzalez had told friends that Zurita had threatened her life, the prosecutor alleged.
The judge scheduled a readiness conference for April 24 and a preliminary hearing for April 29.
The couple had four children together, the youngest is 3 years old.