Man accused in wife’s disappearance pleads not guilty to murder

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VISTA, Calif. -- A man accused of killing his wife and dumping her body near Palomar Mountain last fall pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge.

Hector Garcia Martinez, 39, was ordered held without bail by Judge James E. Simmons.

He was arrested last week on suspicion of murdering 38-year-old Maria Elena Guzman-Cordova, who was reported missing on Oct. 14, 2017, from her residence on North Santa Fe Avenue, San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Rich Williams said.

The defendant told sheriff's investigators that Guzman-Cordova left the family's apartment shortly after 9 p.m. the previous night to take a walk after the couple had argued, Williams said. He also told deputies that Guzman-Cordova did not take any personal items with her, according to the lieutenant. But according to investigators, she was getting ready to leave her husband.

Judge Simmons explained his reasoning for denying bail. “She informed others that she wanted to leave the relationship and made those thoughts clear to others, and the people (prosecutors) believe that may have been a motive in for this incident.”

Martinez was arrested Thursday morning near his Vista residence, more than a year after he reported his wife missing.

"Maria's remains were recently located in a rural area near Palomar Mountain and positively identified through her DNA," Williams said. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office examined the remains but was unable to determine the cause of death, he said.

Detectives allege Martinez transported Guzman-Cordova's body to the Palomar Mountain area in a four-door white sedan or a burgundy SUV last year on Oct. 13 or Oct. 14. In court it was revealed that investigators believe the murder took place in the couple's home, and the following morning, Martinez drove his 5-year-old daughter to his parents' home with his wife's body in the car. “Based on information provided by the people, the victim may have been in the trunk of the vehicle at the time that that happened and the victims body was then dumped near Palomar Mountain," Simmons said.

"Evidence gathered over the course of the year-long investigation linked Martinez to Maria Guzman's murder," Williams said.

Martinez will be back in court Nov. 6 for a readiness conference. A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 8. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder and faces 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted.

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