Escondido murders
Veronica Soto Ortega (L) and Ana Soto. Photo via

A man who killed his estranged wife and her sister in Escondido was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 26 years to life in state prison.

Juan Carlos Ortega, 38, was convicted by a Vista jury last month of first-degree murder for the August 2018 deaths of 30-year-old Veronica Soto Ortega and 26-year-old Ana Soto. Both victims’ bodies were discovered miles apart from each other on Aug. 9, 2018.

Prosecutors said Ortega killed the women at his wife’s apartment just after 3 a.m. Both women were stabbed, while Soto was also shot.

At trial, Ortega’s defense attorney did not deny that his client killed the women, but alleged he did so in self-defense after Soto put a knife to his throat, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Firefighters first found Soto’s body inside a burning SUV near Country Club and Kauana Loa drives. Prosecutors said the SUV was registered to her sister.

Ortega’s wife was found dead at her apartment on West 11th Avenue, a few miles away from the site of the burning vehicle. Ortega’s two children, then ages 4 and 5, were found unharmed in the apartment.

Ortega was arrested later that day at his workplace in Carlsbad.

Along with two first-degree murder counts, Ortega was convicted of an arson count, two child endangerment counts, and special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait and committing multiple murders.

In a statement, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said, “The brutality with which this defendant killed the two victims is horrendous and is sadly a disturbing example of what can happen when domestic violence escalates.”

City News Service contributed to this article.