VISTA (CNS) - A man accused of fatally shooting his pregnant 18-year-old girlfriend and their unborn baby, then fleeing to Mexico, was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on two counts of murder.
Ruben Anthony Cepeda, 21, a documented gang member from Poway, faces 150 years to life in state prison if convicted.
Following a morning preliminary hearing at the Vista Courthouse, Judge Harry Elias ruled that enough evidence was presented for the defendant to stand trial in the April 7 deaths of Viridiana Rodriguez and their 4-month-old male fetus.
A Superior Court arraignment was set for July 10.
Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said Cepeda and fellow gang member Jesse Juan Lopez were moving into a new apartment in Escondido when the shooting occurred sometime after 7 p.m. Two of the victim's sisters who were helping with the move were in the apartment on North Fig Street when the shooting occurred.
Escondido police Detective John Myers said one of the sisters, Yemely Rodriguez, told him that she was in a bedroom with sister Diana Rodriguez when she heard a noise in another bedroom and the victim crying out for help.
Yemely Rodriguez said she found her sister Viridiana on the floor with Cepeda kneeling next to her, Myers testified.
Cepeda said the shooting was an "accident" and that he was "sorry" and told Yemely Rodriguez to call 911, the detective testified.
Yemely Rodriguez said Cepeda told her he was going for help but disappeared, Myers testified.
In a second interview two weeks after the shooting, Yemely Rodriguez said she saw a gun in the bedroom and saw Lopez pick it up with a shirt, the detective testified.
Yemely Rodriguez told the detective that because of the stress of the situation, she had "visions" of Cepeda holding a gun in the bedroom but the defendant not knowing it was loaded, Myers testified.
Diana Rodriguez, Lopez's girlfriend, said she saw Cepeda and the victim standing face-to-face, then saw Viridiana Rodriguez on the ground. Viridiana Rodriguez and her unborn child died about an hour later at a hospital.
The witness said she saw Cepeda holding his girlfriend and saw a black gun on the ground.
Diana Rodriguez testified that she tried to call and text both Cepeda and Lopez but got no response.
She said that both the victim and Cepeda were happy about having a baby boy.
Lopez, 22, was detained in his Toyota Tundra about an hour after the shooting at the Otay Mesa Border Crossing and a man -- thought to be Cepeda -- was seen running from Lopez's car into Mexico, Watanabe said.
Border officials released Lopez, but he was charged two weeks later with being an accessory after the fact. He faces seven years behind bars if convicted.
Cepeda was stopped in Tijuana on June 11 and turned over to U.S. authorities.