Man pleads not guilty in ex-wife's death; accused of running her - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man pleads not guilty in ex-wife's death; accused of running her down

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CHULA VISTA (CNS) - A man accused of killing his former wife by intentionally running her down with his pickup truck in Chula Vista last week pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges.

Cesar Castillo Vallejo, 37, was ordered held without bail. He faces up to life behind bars if ultimately convicted of murder and violating civil and criminal protection orders.

Vallejo is accused of repeatedly running over his 37-year-old wife, Leonor, with his 1998 Chevrolet Silverado in the 1100 block of Elm Avenue in Chula Vista about 7 p.m. Friday. She died at the scene.

Deputy District Attorney Christy Bowles said the ex-spouses had met up earlier that day to go shopping. Following that, he allegedly struck the victim with his white pickup truck once "then drove down the street, made a U-turn, repositioned his truck and came back and ran over the victim a second time, killing her," Bowles said. She declined to discuss a possible motive.

Vallejo was on probation at the time for violating a protection order filed by the victim. He had also threatened his former wife's current boyfriend, according to Bowles.

Authorities said Vallejo, a maintenance man who worked in the Mission Bay area, fled to Mexico following his wife's death. He initially tried to take his children, ages 10, 8 and 3 with him, but the victim's mother persuaded him to leave them behind.

He turned himself in to authorities at the San Ysidro Port of Entry Monday afternoon and was booked into San Diego Central Jail Monday night.

Vallejo's arraignment was to have taken place Wednesday but was postponed until Thursday.

The couple's 12-year marriage ended over a year ago. Bowles said the defendant was hoping to reconcile with the victim, but became jealous and angry.

A donation fund was set up to help the couple's three young daughters. At the time of their mother's death, the children were waiting at their grandparents' home for her to return so they could decorate their Christmas tree together, CVPD Lt. Fritz Reber said.

"The children are safe, and I think coping as best they can with this tragedy," Bowles said.

The victim served as vice president of the Parent Teachers Association at Palomar Elementary, where her two oldest girls attend school.

"We are saddened by the loss of life," Principal Erika Taylor said in a letter to the school's parents. "Leonor was a great volunteer at our school, mother of three young daughters, and consistent supporter of education. We understand the shock and sadness about her death."

The family has received a number of contributions from members of the public concerned about the girls' welfare, the lieutenant said.

Anyone wishing to help can do so online at HERE>>.

The defendant is due back in court for a readiness conference Dec. 12, and a preliminary hearing on Dec. 17.

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