Man who killed estranged wife then burned car with her inside se - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man who killed estranged wife then burned car with her inside sentenced to life term

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who strangled his estranged wife, put her body in a car and set it ablaze at UC San Diego, was sentenced Friday to more than 16 years to life in state prison.

Julio Angel Garcia-Puente, 51, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder and arson of a vehicle in the October 2010 death of Lorena Gonzalez.

Garcia fled after the murder and was arrested Nov. 5, 2010, in Tijuana and turned over to San Diego police.

"(He) has caused irreparable damage," the victim's sister, Elba Gonzalez, told Judge Robert F. O'Neill. "This man had no right to take away my sister's life. He does not deserve to be a part of this society."

Prosecutors said Garcia killed the 38-year-old mother of two hours before her car was found ablaze in a UCSD parking lot off Voigt Drive in La Jolla the night of Oct. 29, 2010.

While extinguishing the blaze, firefighters discovered the victim's charred body inside. Two of Gonzalez's front teeth were found in her throat from a blow to the face, and her neck was fractured in three places, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing.

Garcia told investigators that his estranged wife's death was an accident, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said.

Rooney said Garcia thought Gonzalez was seeing someone else and confronted her about it at her Carlsbad apartment. He said he pushed her when she slapped him, and she hit her head on some furniture and died, according to Rooney.

Garcia told police he panicked, wrapped the body in a blanket and put it in the car, the prosecutor said.

Rooney said that after the murder, the defendant went to a 7-Eleven and bought beer, cigarettes and matches, then drove around in her car before ending up in La Jolla and setting it on fire with her in it.

"The defendant told police officers that he just drove around until he found somewhere to burn the car and the body," Rooney said outside court Friday.

O'Neill sentenced Garcia to 16 years and four months to life in state prison.

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