Man sentenced for strangling wife before driving body to police
SAN DIEGO — A man who stalked and strangled his estranged wife after learning she was dating an 18-year-old co-worker, then drove her body to police headquarters two days later, was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in state prison.
Superior Court Judge Amalia Meza said the 40-year-old victim, Mirella De Orenday, was killed in a “very brutal fashion,” leaving the couple’s three young children without a mother or a father.
Americus De Orenday couldn’t handle it when he found out she was moving on with her life after nine years of marriage, Meza said.
“You obsessed over it,” the judge told the defendant, who was convicted last month of first-degree murder. “You planned this murder.”
Leslie Gutierrez, the victim’s daughter from a previous relationship, addressed her stepfather in the courtroom.“What you did was very painful,” she said. “It was hard to believe that you did such a thing.”
The victim’s sister, Sonia Alas, said in a letter read by a paralegal that the murder affected her entire family.
“What you did to my sister is not even done to animals,” Alas wrote. “Didn’t you think of the pain you caused your children?”
In a letter to the court, De Orenday’s first wife said her ex-husband’s killing of Mirella was “bone-chilling.”
“That could have been me,” Nelly Ulate-Briles wrote. “I will never understand why you didn’t just walk away.”
Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh told jurors that De Orenday had a history of violence against women, preventing his first wife from leaving the house and threatening to kill another woman he was dating.
Trinh said De Orenday told others that he would do “something stupid” if he caught Mirella with her new boyfriend.
The prosecutor told the jury that the defendant also asked his children, “How would you feel if I killed mommy?”
De Orenday and the victim had separated a few months before she was killed, Trinh said.
The defendant had taken out a restraining order against his estranged wife and won custody of their 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old twins, according to the prosecutor.
Gutierrez testified that her father and the victim argued often during their marriage, mostly about money but also about how to raise their three young children.
Defense attorney Liza Suwczinsky said her client loved his wife and went to her apartment on Sept. 21, 2013, with their children to talk to her about keeping their marriage together.
De Orenday convinced his spouse to go out to his truck and, once there, realized that his life was “shattered” and went into a frenzy and strangled her in the heat of passion, Suwczinsky told the jury.
De Orenday kept his wife’s bloodied body for two days before driving to police headquarters in downtown San Diego and turning himself in. The defendant tried three ways to kill himself before going to police, his attorney said.