By PAUL YOUNG
A 29-year-old man was sentenced today to 16 years to life in prison for stabbing his mother’s purported lover to death in Santa Ana.
Saul Jose Salazar was convicted in November of second-degree murder for the Oct. 3, 2010, stabbing death of 33-year-old Antonio Verdugo-Cabrera. Jurors also found true a sentencing enhancement for use of a deadly weapon.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue sentenced Salazar today.
“Mr. Salazar is a very dangerous and unpredictable man,” Deputy
District Attorney Susan Price said after today’s hearing. “The jury did the right thing. He poses a great risk to society and we feel 16 years to life in prison is an appropriate sentence.”
Many members of Salazar’s family and friends were in court today to support him.
When Salazar was released from jail in late September 2010 for assaulting his mother, he moved back in with her, Price said.
Within a few days, she was calling police for help in kicking her son out, the prosecutor said.
Investigators believe Verdugo-Cabrera victim was romantically involved and living with with the defendant’s mother and had known Salazar for about 17 years, Price said.
The defendant’s mother, however, testified that she was not romantically involved with the victim.
Verdugo-Cabrera and Salazar’s mother decided to kick the defendant out of the house, but Salazar “felt it was his home and he had a right to be there,” Price said.
A restraining order prohibited Salazar from going near his mother, but it expired a couple of weeks before the slaying, Price said.
The victim and the defendant’s mother were having a barbecue at their home on the night of his death, Price said. Verdugo-Cabrera and Salazar got into an argument that escalated into a fight, which led to the stabbing, she said.
Salazar ran away and hid for a few hours, but returned to the apartment with the bloody pocket knife used in the stabbing and was arrested, Price said.
Salazar’s attorney, Chris McGibbons of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, argued that Salazar acted in self-defense. McGibbons said if jurors did not accept the self-defense argument then they should convict him of voluntary manslaughter instead.
Verdugo-Cabrera had methamphetamine and alcohol in his system, but it did not play a role in the killing, Price said.