After getting drunk and beating his common law wife of 18 years in Sept. 2008, Fidelio Salazar Marin fled Orange County and the police for Washington state and took a job picking grapes and apples.
The following month, Marin snuck back by bus and, using a fake identity because he isn't eligible for a valid California driver's license, checked into a Huntington Beach motel.
He asked Felix Mendez, his estranged partner and mother of his four children, to bring him beer.
All went relatively well inside the motel room at first. The couple had sex twice and then gruesome disaster rang.
Mendez's boyfriend called. Marin went nuts. The woman then made the last mistake of her life: she belittled his masculinity.
Marin choked her and then stabbed her 36 times--including severe cuts to the stomach and trachea. One stab wound severed her left carotid artery, according to the autopsy report.
The couple's 15-year-old daughter found the bloody corpse, screamed and a motel clerk called the authorities.
At the request of police, the daughter called her father, who admitted to the killing and provided a motive.
"No one's going to make a fool out of me" or "make me look dumb," he declared, ignorant that police had traced his cell phone and found him on a bus in Santa Ana.
After a 2009 trial, a jury convicted Marin of second degree murder and Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly sentenced him to prison.
Marin appealed, claiming that he hadn't formed the necessary intent for the killing to qualify as a murder. He said he acted in the sudden heat of passion spurred by the boyfriend's aggravating telephone call. If he was guilty of any crime, it was voluntary manslaughter, he argued.
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This month, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered Marin's complaints and made its ruling.
"A reasonable jury could have found Marin possessed the malice necessary to support a second degree murder conviction," opined Justice Kathleen E. O'Leary on behalf of justice William F. Rylaarsdam and Richard M. Aronson. "Upon review, we find there was substantial evidence of malice. The autopsy results confirmed Mendez was manually strangled prior to her death. After strangling Mendez, Marin used his four-inch grape cutting knife to stab her 36 times."
Upshot: Marin, 42, will continue to serve his 16 years to life sentence. He is presently housed at Wasco State Prison. When he emerges, he will likely be deported by federal officials.