SAN DIEGO -- A Mexican citizen who stabbed and strangled his 19- year-old estranged wife at San Diego City College after she took out a restraining order against him was convicted Friday of first-degree murder and lying in wait.
Jurors took only a few hours to find 44-year-old Armando Perez guilty in the Oct. 12, 2010, death of Diana Gonzalez. Their daughter was about 10 months old when her mother was killed.
Perez waved to jurors and said "thank you" as they filed out of the courtroom.
The defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and lying in wait in November 2014, but an appeals court sent the case back to San Diego Superior Court, ruling that a judge erred by allowing Perez to plead guilty without a lawyer in a case in which he faced a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Deputy District Attorney Jessica Lees said she was pleased that the jury saw the truth and rendered a "just" verdict.
"It was a very gruesome murder, and ...hopefully now Diana can rest in peace," the prosecutor said outside court.
Lees told the jury that Perez waited for his wife, a student at SDCC, as classes let out the night of Oct. 12, 2010. Perez walked with Gonzalez the opposite way from where her parents were waiting to pick her up, then strangled her and stabbed her all over her body in a men's bathroom, the prosecutor said.
Lees said Perez desecrated his wife's body by carving the word "bitch" on her back.
Perez fled to Mexico after the killing and remained a fugitive until he was arrested in February 2012 and extradited back to San Diego to face charges.
Lees said Perez was married with two children when he met Gonzalez. She was 18 and he was 36 when she got pregnant, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said Perez became obsessed with Gonzalez and was abusive, causing her to take out a temporary restraining order against him a month before she was killed.
Perez testified that he "lost it" when Gonzalez told him that he would never see their young daughter again and, after losing control, saw the victim on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood.
His attorney, Bart Sheela, told the jury that Perez saw Gonzalez with a male friend and was going to confront him, but left and returned to the campus with a knife. Perez killed his wife in a "crime of passion," Sheela said.
Perez will be sentenced to life in prison without parole on Nov. 16.