A psychologist will help determine whether a man accused of repeatedly stabbing his ex-girlfriend outside her Coachella home after she broke up with him is mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Thursday.
Carlos Antonio Mendoza, 38, of Coachella, is charged with the 2016 killing of 31-year-old Cecilia Silva.
Mendoza’s defense attorney called into question his mental competency, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini ruled a doctor will have to return a report on Mendoza’s ability to assist his defense attorney in trial by Aug. 30.
Mendoza also faces a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, which made him eligible for the death penalty if convicted of Silva’s murder, but prosecutors decided not to pursue capital punishment in 2017. That means Mendoza faces a maximum potential sentence of life without the possibility of parole if found guilty.
Sheriff’s homicide investigator Daniel Moody testified at Mendoza’s preliminary hearing in March 2017 that Silva was stabbed “at least 15 times” and was found lying face-down in a pool of blood in the driveway of her home in the 52700 block of Calle Empalme at 6:25 a.m. on March 20, 2016.
A friend of the victim told investigators that Silva and Mendoza had been dating, but Silva said Mendoza was “suffocating her.”
Following Silva’s death, Mendoza checked himself into Canyon Ridge Hospital in Chino.
District attorney’s investigator Sean Freeman testified at the preliminary hearing that, after Silva’s DNA was found on some of the defendant’s clothes at the hospital and he failed multiple psychological tests aimed at measuring his potential mental impairment, Mendoza admitted to the killing.
Freeman testified that Mendoza said he waited for Silva to return home from work, then donned all-dark clothing, including a mask patterned after the comic book character “Bane,” and stabbed Silva with a “large bowie knife.”
According to Freeman, the defendant said he threw the knife into a La Quinta canal, where it was later recovered by investigators.
Mendoza remains in custody without bail and is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 30 for a mental competency hearing.