RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A 28-year-old Coachella Valley man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend during a frenzied attack was sane at the time of the crime, a jury ruled Monday, setting the stage for his sentencing next month.
The same Riverside jury that convicted Christian Alejandro Pacheco of the murder of 30-year-old Elilia Valdez Garcia of Thermal deliberated just over a day before determining that he was mentally fit when he perpetrated the killing and committed other offenses.
The panel on April 20 found Pacheco guilty of first-degree murder, 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 had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The sanity trial lasted just over a week.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Walter Kubelun scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 30 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
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 displayed “an aggressive temperament (while) using drugs,” mainly methamphetamine, and he was not welcome at either of his parents’ homes.
He was in a rocky relationship with Garcia and stole her brother’s Hyundai, prosecutors said.
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, telling her to come with him, and the two drove off in her brother’s car, according to court papers.
Prosecutors said that later that morning, 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 Street in Thermal. Around noon the same day, Pacheco returned to Garcia’s trailer and set it aflame. 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, Garcia 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 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 took a knife, then returned to the Hyundai, where a neighbor observed him “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. They questioned Pacheco at length, and the following day, he led them to where the victim’s body had been dumped, according to court papers.
After they found the woman’s remains, Pacheco broke down in tears.
He had a prior misdemeanor conviction for driving on a suspended license.
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