SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man accused of fatally stabbing his 19-year-old estranged wife in a San Diego City College restroom nearly two years ago pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a murder charge and was ordered held without bail.
Armando Perez, 39, was handed over to San Diego homicide detectives Tuesday after his extradition from Mexico City. Perez was arrested in Tijuana in February in connection with the Oct. 12, 2010, slaying of Diana Gonzalez.
Perez, who is charged with murder and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, faces life in prison without parole if convicted. U.S. authorities agreed not to seek the death penalty in return for the defendant's extradition from Mexico.
The victim's sister, Janette Gonzalez., cursed at the defendant in Spanish as soon as Deputy Public Defender Kevin Milmoe entered the not guilty pleas on behalf of Perez.
The defendant was taken into a holding cell when he asked Superior Court Judge Robert F. O'Neill why he had to plead not guilty.
As the defendant was ultimately led out of the courtroom he said, "I'm guilty alright. Don't tell me not to be guilty."
The judge scheduled a bail review for Monday and a preliminary hearing for Sept. 5.
Deputy District Attorney Teresa Santana told the judge that the couple wed in December 2009 and the defendant had a history of domestic violence against his bride.
At one point, Perez told the victim he would kill her or her family if she ever left him, the prosecutor alleged.
When she enrolled in classes at San Diego City College in the fall of 2010, Perez went with her even though he was not enrolled, Santana said.
In September of that year, Perez was jailed for domestic violence against his wife, and she took out a restraining order against him, the prosecutor said.
The night of the murder, the victim's family gave her a ride to school and students in her class noticed Perez perched in a tree and later saw him waiting for her, according to the prosecutor.
The victim's parents reported her missing, and later a man discovered her body in a men's restroom on campus. She had been stabbed in the neck and all over her body, Santana said.
Perez ran from the scene and took the trolley and hid out in Mexico for more than a year, the prosecutor said.
Charges were filed against Perez three days after the victim was killed.
"Law enforcement on both sides of the border never wavered in their efforts to locate the defendant, to track him down, to arrest him, to bring him here to San Diego to hold him accountable for Diana Gonzalez's brutal murder," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told reporters following his arraignment.
"This court process is very difficult because it forces the family to relive this whole experience, this tragedy, over and over again as it plays out in the courtroom and in the media," she said.
The victim's cousin, Beatriz Luna, said her family is at peace knowing the killer's crimes will not go unpunished.
"We have never wished death to anyone, but what does the person who leaves a 10-month-old baby without her mother deserve?" Luna asked. "What does the person who snatches a 19-year-old daughter from her parents deserve? Death would be fair, but we have to leave that aspect of human life to the creator."