Preliminary Hearing for Murder and Arson Suspect Postponed
The preliminary hearing for the estranged husband of a woman whose body was found burned on the UCSD campus last October has been postponed until Mar. 30. 50-year-old Julio Angel Garcia-Puente is accused of murdering his wife, 38-year-old Carlsbad resident Lorena Gonzalez, then burning her body.
According to Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney, a witness for the prosecution was not able to make the initial Mar. 10 preliminary hearing, and a motion to postpone was filed. The witness was out-of-state, Rooney said.
Garcia-Puente first appeared in court Nov. 10, and pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and arson. The judge set his bail at $1 million.
Firefighters discovered Gonzalez’s charred remains when they responded to a vehicle fire in the 1600 block of Voight Drive Oct. 30. According to police, neither the suspect nor the victim were in any way connected with UCSD; the reason her body was placed there remains a mystery. Garcia-Puente is accused of burning Gonzalez’s body to destroy the evidence of her murder, police said.
The Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Gonzalez’s remains Nov. 1. The cause of her death was strangulation, police said. ”Initially the cause of death was sealed because they didn’t want the suspect to learn we knew that it was a homicide and he would flee, which he did anyway,” said Sergeant David Johnson of the San Diego Police Department.
Shortly after Gonzalez’s body was discovered, Garcia-Puente was named a suspect by San Diego police. According to authorities, he was an unemployed transient who frequented Carlsbad and San Marcos. Additionally, Garcia-Puente was not a legal resident of the United States. He was later found in Tijuana by Mexican police Nov. 5, and surrendered to US authorities at the port of entry in San Ysidro.
According to a search warrant affidavit, neighbors of Gonzalez told police that she had changed her locks to protect herself from Garcia-Puente, whom she had described as abusive. The couple had been having marital difficulties, but no restraining orders were ever filed, police said.
If convicted of both charges, Garcia-Puente could face 26 years to life, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said.