A 23-year-old Santa Ana man was convicted today of bashing in his lover’s skull to steal his flat-screen TV, car, stereo and other valuables.
Jose Fuentes, who is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes before convicting Fuentes of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and burglary, with special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and murder in the commission of a robbery and burglary.
Jose Fuentes had been dating the 47-year-old Pedro Cerecer for a few weeks before he decided he wanted to steal the man’s 40-inch TV, DVD player and other goods, Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray said.
The two had a “purely sexual relationship,” Murray said. “The crime was about money. It was about greed, because the defendant was out of money,” Murray said in his opening statement of the trial.
He said Fuentes went to the guesthouse Cerecer rented at 1331 S. Joane Way on June 5, 2010.
Cerecer, a custodian, was not wealthy, but he could afford things Fuentes wanted and enjoyed, the prosecutor said.
Fuentes slammed a decorative rock bearing religious symbols over the victim’s head at least four times, then took a shower and put a pillow, blanket and shower curtain over the body, the prosecutor said.
Police never recovered the murder weapon, according to Murray, who said Fuentes loaded Cerecer’s Toyota Camry with the TV, stereo, DVD player and other valuables. He also took the victim’s checkbook, credit card and cash.
“Now it was time to party,” Murray said, adding that Fuentes checked into a motel.
Investigators found the defendant’s DNA on a cigarette at Cerecer’s home and under his fingernails, Murray said.
Garden Grove police stopped Fuentes on June 6, 2010, for blocking traffic in Cerecer’s car and arrested him, Murray said.
Cerecer’s body was found the following day, when Santa Ana police ran the victim’s license plate through vehicle records and learned it had been impounded by Garden Grove police, leading investigators to Fuentes.
Police recovered the stolen items in the motel room Fuentes rented, Murray said.
Fuentes initially told police that he helped rob and kill Cerecer to pay off a $120 drug debt he owed to a gang leader from Bishop Street, Murray said.
Fuentes claimed he only held the victim down while the “Bishop Street guy” bludgeoned Cerecer, Murray said.
Later, Fuentes acknowledged that he alone killed and robbed the victim, Murray said.
Fuentes’ attorney, Jack Earley, argued for second-degree murder and said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove his client personally bludgeoned the victim.
The defendant did have a drug debt and so feared the dealer that he rented a motel room to avoid exposing his mother, with whom he lived, to any vengeance, the attorney said.