Murder Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Cooper of the San Diego Superior Court alleged that 50-year-old Julio Angel Garcia-Puente killed his 38-year-old wife Lorena Gonzalez on Oct. 29, when her body was found in a burning SUV at the parking lot next to UCSD’s baseball field.

Cooper said the defendant destroyed evidence by burning the body of the victim.

Judge Richard Whitney has set the bail amount at $1 million and scheduled a status conference for Nov. 22 to determine the date of the preliminary trial.

“There is the preliminary hearing, which is like a mini-trial to determine if probable cause exists to show that the suspect committed the crime and if the case should proceed to trial,” San Diego Police Department’s Lt. Kevin Rooney said. “Or there’s always a possibility a suspect will enter a plea prior to a trial. It really depends on the defendant, the attorney and whatever decision they make to fight it to trial or not.”

If convicted, Garcia-Puente will face 26 years to life in prison.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the medical examiner’s office identified the female body as a Carlsbad resident Gonzalez, who is the registered owner of the burning vehicle.

Rooney said the cause of death will be disclosed at a later time.

“The autopsy reported has not been completed by the doctor who performed the autopsy,” he said. “In the meantime, we are going to continue keeping any documents the medical examiner’s office has prepared sealed. We’re not going to reveal [the cause of death] just yet.”

Neither the woman nor her estranged husband were UCSD students.

“There was never any link established between the victim and the university,” Rooney said.
SDPD have been looking for Garcia-Puente since Nov. 1. On Nov. 5, Mexican law enforcement located Garcia-Puente in the Otay neighborhood of Tijuana.

Garcia-Puente voluntarily returned to the United States and detectives arrested him at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

“We developed what we call probable cause, [which is] sufficient evidence to arrest him,” Rooney said. “The district attorney agrees and they are charging him with murder and arson.”

Rooney said Garcia-Puente is a not a U.S. citizen.

“He’s a Mexican national, he’s not a citizen of the United States,” Rooney said. “He agreed to return to the United States. So he crossed the border down San Ysidro court, we met him and there’s federal process for getting someone back into the United States who’s not a citizen. We were able to facilitate that and get him back into the United States. We met with the man and ultimately arrested him.”

A San Marcos church called Templo Cristiano Alpha y Omega Church will hold a memorial service for Gonzalez on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m.

Readers can contact Regina Ip at [email protected].