Sabre Springs murder victims worked as nurses at Donovan prison - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Sabre Springs murder victims worked as nurses at Donovan prison

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Homicide victims Bernabe Villamar, Jr. and Valerie Marabante Homicide victims Bernabe Villamar, Jr. and Valerie Marabante
Murder suspect Mel Marabante Murder suspect Mel Marabante

By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) – A man and woman found dead in a condominium in Sabre Springs over the weekend were identified Monday as co-workers at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa.

A colleague confirmed to News 8 that Valerie Marabante, 23, and Bernabe Villamar, Jr., 26, both worked as nurses at the state prison.

Nursing assistant Patricia Berry said she worked this past Friday with Marabante in the prison's medical unit, two days before the double homicide. News of the murders has hit hard with fellow employees.

"People just can't believe they're both gone," Berry said. "They're all tore up in there. They're just crying. She was really loved. They really like her. She was a really nice girl."

Villamar -- who was better known by his nickname Junior -- was also well respected by coworkers, who described him as a hard worker and nice guy. Sentiments echoed by his neighbor.

"He was very sweet, very polite, very much a gentleman. He'd come in, knock on my door and sometimes he'd cook something and bring it to me and vice versa," said Teresa Landini who lived next door to Villamar's Woodlawn Ave. apartment in Chula Vista.

Mel Marabante, 41, is suspected of shooting his estranged wife Valerie and her companion inside her condominium about 3 a.m. Sunday, San Diego Police Lt. Kevin Rooney said.

Rooney said a friend of the family had received a call on Sunday morning asking him to go over to the condo. The caller's identity was not released.

The bodies were found about 8:15 a.m. when law enforcement officers were sent to the condominium at 10946 Evening Creek Drive to check on them, Rooney said.

The woman's husband was arrested at a hospital in Murrieta and returned to San Diego, where he was expected to be charged Thursday with two counts of murder, police said.

Rooney declined to say what brought Marabante to the hospital.

Homicide detectives searched the condo and a home in Murrieta, Rooney said. He said the couple had rented the condo, but that the husband had recently moved out.

There was at least one report of gunfire around 3 a.m., but patrol officers did not find anything suspicious in the area, Rooney said.

Neighbors who saw the couple move in about a month ago said they were unaware the husband moved out the day before Valentine's Day.

Valerie Marabante worked as a registered nurse at Donovan prison. Bernabe Villamar, Jr. worked as a vocational nurse at the same facility.

Berry, the Donovan co-worker, told News 8 the deceased couple was not romantically involved.

"They were just friends. They weren't even dating," Berry said.

Berry said the estranged husband, Mel Marabante, also worked at some point as a registered nurse at a California prison.

Valerie Marabante – then Valerie Sidlin -- met her husband when she was age 17 and working at a retirement home in her home town of Sun City in Riverside County, according to a former co-worker who did not want to be identified.

The co-worker said Mel Marabante was married with children and in his mid-30s at the time his relationship with Valerie began.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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