A woman who was found under a car in a City Heights alley was fatally stabbed by her friend, who later confessed her crime to three people, a prosecutor alleged Monday, but the defendant’s attorney said his client was charged with murder because of her criminal background.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney David Bost alleged that Christina Daniel fled the scene after Jasmine Ruiz was mortally wounded on April 20, 2016, then laughed over the phone when telling her sisters about killing the 29-year-old victim.
Police thought Ruiz was the victim of a hit-and-run until an autopsy revealed a fatal stab wound to her neck and defensive wounds on her hands and arms, Bost told the jury.
Bost said the two women were riding in the back of a car in the alley when Daniel allegedly took less than two seconds to stab Ruiz.
“That was a blow intended to kill,” the prosecutor said, calling it a “cold, calculated decision.”
Daniel, 32, initially lied and told police she had nothing to do with the murder, but later confessed to her sisters and her fiance, Bost alleged.
The defendant told a detective that she snapped when Ruiz wouldn’t get two men out of her house and also said something bad about her brother, the prosecutor told the jury.
Police found a supermarket receipt in the car and obtained surveillance video from the market showing Daniel and Marco Antonio Gutierrez — who pleaded guilty last year to hit-and-run in connection with Ruiz’s death and was sentenced to three years in prison — in the store 30 minutes before the fatal confrontation.
Homicide Detective Jonathan Dungan said a parolee told him that Daniel came to his home after the murder and said, “Get me out of here!”
The parolee said he refused, but did hide a knife that Daniel gave him in a wall heater.
Deputy Public Defender Dalen Duong argued that the prosecution had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and said his client might be guilty of manslaughter at most. Duong also suggested that Daniel stabbed Ruiz in self- defense or could have been falsely accused.
Duong said detectives told Daniel that she killed Ruiz out of anger, and the defendant tried to take the blame so she wouldn’t “snitch” on others.
The attorney said Daniel ran from the scene because “she was scared and in shock.”
Duong said Daniel and Ruiz were friends who met in Juvenile Hall and also were in prison at the same time. The two women had lost touch, but reconnected just weeks before Ruiz was killed.
The morning of the fatal encounter, Daniel and Ruiz went to the Sycuan Casino to gamble and buy drugs, then returned to City Heights, Duong said.
At some point, Ruiz was driving a car with Daniel in the front passenger seat and two men in the back and an argument ensued, the defense attorney said.
Duong said Daniel saw Ruiz with a knife and the two women began fighting in the car in the alley and Ruiz was stabbed as Daniel tried to defend herself.
A 17-year-old girl named Martha testified that she was in her room at her grandfather’s apartment in the 4100 block of Wilson Avenue about 10 a.m. on April 20, 2016, when she heard fighting and arguing in the alley below.
The teen said she saw a man and a woman standing outside of a car and another woman with blood on her legs trying to get out of the vehicle.
“I thought she was getting raped,” the girl testified.
The witness said she ran downstairs and noticed the car had crashed near a pole. She said she saw two men and a woman running from the scene and saw the victim under the car. “I told her everything was going to be OK.”
The teen said Ruiz asked her to pull the car back, but she didn’t know how and waited for help to arrive.
Bost said the victim was pushed out of the car and run over and dragged about 15 to 20 feet. He said the defendant was on parole for a 2007 carjacking, and has also been charged in a separate case in the South Bay with stabbing a person in the head and back.
Daniel faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted.
—City News Service