Bystanders were mortified on March 9, 2013, when in broad daylight they watched a man chase, catch, punch and stab another fellow in the chest on busy South Main Street in Santa Ana, where the victim darted across the street, collapsed and died.
Trial is scheduled to begin this morning in Fullerton for Mario Alberto Rodriguez, who is accused of being the attacker who stalked, chased and ultimately killed 26-year-old acquaintance Paul Anthony Garcia of Irvine before fleeing to Mexico.
Rodriguez, his father Rigoberto Rodriguez and then-18-year-old Pablo Sanchez followed Garcia for a few blocks until he entered El Chile Picante restaurant, 1904 S. Main St., where the defendant is accused of trying to grab the victim and lead him outside, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
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Informing Rodriguez the restaurant had video surveillance, employees asked him to leave the building, which he did. But Rodriguez waited near the exit for Garcia to leave and later chased him through the parking lot, across Main Street and to his death, the OCDA claims.
Rodriguez subsequently fled to Mexico and returned several days later, but when the Santa Ana Police Department released the El Chile Picante's surveillance footage so the public could help identify Garcia's killer, Rodriguez is accused of ducking back into Mexico again.
He was arrested June 19, 2013, by the Michoacán State Police in La Estanzuela, Michoacán, Mexico, and then extradited back to Orange County to face trial. Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson of the Homicide Unit is making the case to jurors that 26-year-old Rodriguez should be found guilty of one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife.
If the jury agrees with the prosecutor, Rodriguez could be sentenced to life in state prison, according to the OCDA.