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Day 1 | Preliminary hearing for Larry Millete Chula Vista man accused of murdering his wife

A judge will decide if there is enough evidence for Millete to go to trial for murder in a hearing expected to last for more than a week.

SAN DIEGO — More than two years ago, a Chula Vista mother of three, Maya Millete, went missing. She still has not been found.

Wednesday morning, a preliminary hearing began for Larry Millete, charged with Maya’s murder.

CBS 8 learned there are 25 witnesses on the prosecution's list. The defense will not call any witnesses.

Up first on the witness stand, Desteny Johnson. She testified she works at Broaden Law Office in Chula Vista. She told the judge Maya contacted the office January 7, 2021 to schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney. Johnson said she does the intake of clients. She spent several minutes with Maya on the phone.

WATCH RELATED: Larry Millete hearing Day 1 | Judge hears evidence surrounding missing mother, Maya Millete 

She painted a picture of a woman who loved her children, and was terrified of what her husband's reaction was going to be if he found out she was filing for divorce.

"She said they had separated before and it was not good," testified Johnson. "She did say she was concerned about the reaction that would happen if it was found out she was filing."

Johnson said she was concerned about Maya's safety. She testified Maya was afraid of visiting the law office in person, because she feared Larry would find out. She said she told Maya the situation seemed urgent and she should speak with a divorce attorney the next day. However, Johnson said Maya was adamant about celebrating her daughter's birthday at Big Bear that weekend. She was very excited about the trip and didn't want to spoil it. She said Maya made an appointment for the following week

"It's part of my job to speak to people in some of the most difficult times," said Johnson. "You never expect to hang up the phone and be in a situation where everything's changed for their family, and there's just certain things about that that will live with me forever."

"I do feel some remorse for sending her an intake form," she said tearfully. "I feel like that was maybe something that was discoverable and it has made me question my role. And for that, I'm just not going to forget it"

Maya went missing that same day.

Wednesday’s hearing is not a trial. There are no jurors. Evidence will be presented, and witnesses will testify over two to three weeks in the Downtown San Diego courthouse.

In the end, Judge Dwayne Moring – a former public defender and a former San Diego prosecutor – will decide if there is enough evidence for Millete to go to trial for murder.

The disappearance of Maya Millete | 2-year timeline

Millete, 41, has been in jail since his arrest on October 19, 2021.  Maya went missing nine months earlier, on January 7, 2021, the same day she contacted a divorce attorney.

WATCH: Press Conference: Larry Millete arrest for murder of his wife, May "Maya" Millete (Oct 19, 2021):

“In homicide cases, there is often a triggering event. In this case, on January 7, 2021, May took that step. And, the last call recorded that May made was to a divorce attorney,” said District Attorney Summer Stephen during a news 2021 conference following Millette’s arrest.

Prosecutors allege Millete was angry at Maya for having an affair, and their marriage on the rocks, leading to violent arguments.

On the night she went missing, a surveillance camera recorded loud bangs from the family's home, sounding like gunshots.

Because of the poor quality of the recording, the FBI could not confirm that the loud bangs were, in fact, gunshots.

Other key evidence is expected to come out in court next week.

Millete once choked Maya into unconsciousness, according to one of her friends. The husband also allegedly searched the internet for "Hemlock" and "Rohypnol" to hinder his wife.

Millete repeatedly paid online spellcasters via email, asking them to make his wife have an accident and get hurt, according to an arrest warrant filed in the case.

The day after Maya went missing, Larry drove away from Chula Vista in the family’s Lexus SUV with his four-year-old son. He was gone for 12 hours, initially telling police he went to Solana Beach and later saying he went to Torrey Pines beach, court records allege.

The SUV could not be tracked. Larry's cell phone was turned off all day, according to police.

Search teams have looked for Maya's remains all over San Diego and Imperial counties for the past two years. Larry Millete never participated in any of those searches.

Millete’s defense attorney, Bonita Martinez, has argued that Maya could still be alive.  Without a body, she said, her client should not be convicted of murder.

On Saturday, January 7, 2023, Maya’s family held a hike at San Miguel Mountain in Chula Vista, marking two years since Maya went missing.

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