RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A 28-year-old Coachella Valley man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend during a frenzied attack, as well as burned down her house and killed her dog, was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and other charges, setting the stage for a sanity trial to determine if he was mentally incompetent at the time of the slaying.
A Riverside jury deliberated one day before finding Christian Alejandro Pacheco guilty of the murder count, along with arson, assault with a deadly weapon, animal cruelty and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony.
Pacheco killed 30-year-old Elilia Valdez Garcia in 2017.
He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and the same jury who convicted him must now determine whether he was deranged when he perpetrated the attack and related acts. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Walter Kubelun ordered jurors to return to the Riverside Hall of Justice Monday to begin hearing testimony in the defendant’s sanity trial.
Pacheco is being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to a trial brief filed by the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant was a frequent problem for his family, displaying “an aggressive temperament (while) using drugs,” mainly methamphetamine.
Pacheco was in a rocky relationship with Garcia, causing her difficulties when he took her brother’s Hyundai without asking, as well as swiping her mobile phone.
Early on the morning of March 17, 2017, he went to the victim’s doublewide trailer in the area of Avenue 60 and Van Buren Street in Thermal, telling her to come with him, though he appeared to the victim’s cousin, Maria Solorio, to be highly agitated.
Solorio tried to dissuade Garcia from going with the defendant, even standing behind the Hyundai to prevent him from leaving, but when he almost backed over her, she got out of the way, according to court papers.
The D.A.’s office said sometime in the predawn hours of March 17, Pacheco attacked Garcia, using a knife to stab her numerous times in the head and neck.
“The stab wounds to the back of the neck were lethal, approximately six to eight inches deep,” according to the brief
The defendant dumped her remains on a dirt road leading into a small private cemetery near Body of Christ Church at 62950 Monroe St. in Thermal. Around noon the same day, Pacheco returned to Garcia’s trailer and set it aflame, the brief stated. A neighbor went to see what was happening and encountered Pacheco in the Hyundai with the victim’s Chihuahua.
“The defendant told him, `This witch is (expletive) crazy. I tried to kill her, and she wouldn’t die. I saw the devil in her face, and she wouldn’t die,”‘ according to the brief.
The man told authorities that as he called the fire department, Pacheco sped away. A witness, Duncan Cameron, was not far from Garcia’s burning residence, taking pictures of coconut trees, when the defendant pulled alongside him, asking for money.
Cameron became frightened by Pacheco’s behavior and jumped into his Mercedes to get away. He told sheriff’s detectives Pacheco tailed him, tapping his bumper and causing the witness to lose control. His Mercedes spun out and overturned on a dirt embankment along westbound Avenue 60. He suffered minor injuries.
Pacheco went to his grandmother’s home in the 51-700 block of Calle Torres Orduno in Coachella, where he walked into the kitchen and obtained a knife, then returned to the Hyundai, where a neighbor observed him “start beating a small dog,” court papers said.
He nearly decapitated the Chihuahua and threw the mortally injured animal into nearby bushes.
“The defendant’s family came out and called 911,” the brief said. “The defendant asked his grandmother to forgive him.”
The woman handed him her cell phone, and Pacheco spoke with a 911 dispatcher, who told him to lay on the ground and wait for deputies, which he did. He was taken into custody without incident minutes later and turned over to homicide detectives, who had learned of Garcia’s disappearance. They questioned Pacheco at length, and the following day, he agreed to take them to where the victim’s body had been dumped, according to court papers.
They found the woman’s remains, and Pacheco broke down in tears, the brief said.
He had a prior misdemeanor conviction for driving on a suspended license.
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