SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A deadlocked jury prompted a judge to declare a mistrial Monday in the case of a former San Diego man accused of killing his wife in their Mission Valley apartment 16 years ago and dumping her body in a remote area of the Cleveland National Forest.
Russell Wayne Upton, 37, is charged with murder in the August 1995 death of 21-year-old Marilane Abueg.
Jurors told Judge Kerry Wells today that they were deadlocked 8-4 for guilt.
A status conference was set for tomorrow to determine whether prosecutors will seek to retry Upton.
Upton said he last saw his wife the night of Aug. 17, 1995, when she failed to return home from a walk after they argued over money. Abueg's body was found a week later off Kitchen Creek Road in Pine Valley.
Prosecutor Mark Pettine alleged Upton strangled or smothered his wife, but Deputy Public Defender Kevin Haughton said his client was innocent, telling the jury the victim walked out on the defendant and never came back, just like he told investigators.
Haughton said medical examiners could not determine a cause of death and there was no evidence that she was choked or strangled.
Upton volunteered information to detectives, such as the fact that his relationship with his wife was volatile and that he had hit her in the past, Haughton told the jury.
Haughton said detectives failed to interview family members, co-workers or neighbors who may have seen or heard something the day Abueg disappeared.
In his opening statement, Pettine said Upton was controlling and manipulative and that he had physically assaulted his spouse more than once.
Upton, who was 20 when his wife disappeared, was arrested in March 2010 after being re-interviewed by investigators.
He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
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A non-injury fire Sunday completely destroyed one unit and damaged another in a Rancho Penasquitos apartment complex, displacing two families.
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The San Diego Rescue Mission opened its doors to the homeless community on Saturday for its annual Thanksgiving celebration.