A first-degree murder conviction was upheld Friday for a man who stabbed his 19-year-old estranged wife at San Diego City College.
Armando Perez was convicted of first-degree murder and lying in wait in the Oct. 12, 2010, death of Diana Gonzalez, who was stabbed multiple times inside a men’s bathroom at the campus. Perez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After he killed the victim, Perez fled to his native Mexico and was a fugitive until his arrest in February 2012.
While representing himself, Perez initially pleaded guilty as his trial was about to begin, but an appeals court sent the case back to San Diego Superior Court, ruling that a judge erred by allowing the defendant to plead guilty without a lawyer in a case in which he faced a sentence of life in prison without parole.
At trial, Perez did not deny the killing, but his defense attorney asked that jurors convict him of voluntary manslaughter, alleging that he did not go to City College that night to kill Diana, but “lost his mind” when he saw her with another man.
Perez said he killed his wife after she told him he would never see their 10-month-old daughter again. He testified that the “next thing you know, I see her on the floor, and there was a whole bunch of blood everywhere,” according to the appeals court’s ruling.
Deputy District Attorney Jessica Lees told the jury that Perez waited for his wife, a student at SDCC, as classes let out the night of Oct. 12. 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, including carving the word “bitch” into her back.
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.
In his appeal, Perez’s attorneys argued several points, including that he was not afforded a fair trial because jurors were allowed to hear evidence of prior domestic violence between the couple, hearsay statements between the victim and her mother, and that the prosecutor misstated the criteria for a voluntary manslaughter conviction in her closing arguments.
The three-justice panel rejected Perez’s contentions, stating that none of the alleged errors was substantial enough to likely change the outcome of the trial.
At sentencing in late 2017, the victim’s sister, Janette Gonzalez, told the judge that Perez — who was 36 when his 18-year-old wife became pregnant — didn’t even give her sister a chance to live.
“He’s worse than the devil,” Janette Gonzalez said.
Perez spoke at his sentencing, saying “To me, I should have gotten the death penalty for what I did. I wouldn’t have ever stopped it from happening, just to be able to pay the highest price for what I’ve caused her family and for taking away such a lovely lady from part of your lives. I’ll forever be sorry and hopefully justice comes upon me this time.”
— City News Service