Man pleads guilty to wife’s murder on 1st day of trial

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Armando Gabriel Perez gets emotional during trial.

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SAN DIEGO -- A man accused of killing his estranged 19-year-old wife in a mens' bathroom at San Diego City College four years ago changed his plea to guilty on all charges Monday as his trial was set to begin.

Armando Gabriel Perez, 41, tearfully apologized for stabbing Diana Gonzalez to death on Oct. 12, 2010. He asked the judge to accept his guilty plea to murder and a special circumstance of lying in wait and to dismiss the jury.

The judge accepted his plea and found him guilty on all charges. He could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Perez fled to Mexico after the killing and remained a fugitive until he was arrested by Tijuana Metropolitan Police in February 2012. He was later extradited to San Diego after prosecutors agreed not to seek his execution, consistent with the absence of the death penalty in Mexico.

Perez was representing himself at trial. He and Gonzalez were married in December 2009 and had a 9-month-old daughter at the time of the murder.

At Perez's arraignment in August 2012, Deputy District Attorney Teresa Santana said the defendant told the victim he would kill her or her family if she ever left him.

Almost immediately after the killing, Perez was named a "person of interest'' in the case by San Diego police, who said Gonzalez's numerous stab wounds made it difficult to readily identify her. A short time later, police obtained an arrest warrant charging Perez with murder.

Shortly before her remains were found, Gonzalez's family had reported her missing after she failed to meet them at the school for a ride home. Family members said they had been driving Gonzalez to and from school out of concern that Perez might try to harm her.

A month earlier, Gonzalez accused Perez of repeatedly assaulting her while holding her captive in motel rooms for several days, police said.

Perez was jailed following the complaint made by his young bride but released after four days behind bars when the District Attorney's Office declined to file charges.

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