Mario Alberto Rodriguez was convicted Tuesday of chasing, stalking and fatally stabbing a 26-year-old acquaintance before fleeing to Mexico.
A jury found 26-year-old Santa Ana resident Rodriguez guilty of felony murder and found true a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife.
Rodriguez, who has a prior felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance for sale for the benefit of a criminal street gang in 2012 in Orange County, could get 36 years to life in state prison at his scheduled Oct. 7 sentencing, according to the district attorney's office.
The March 9, 2013, homicide was horrific because so many witnessed it unfolding in front of their eyes.
Paul Anthony Garcia was in front of Rodriguez's home when the defendant and two associates chased the victim on foot. Garcia ran for a few blocks before entering El Chile Picante restaurant on South Main Street, where Rodriguez stormed in and tried to grab Garcia. But restaurant employees informed Rodriguez that the business had video surveillance and told him to leave the building.
Rodriguez did that but waited near the restaurant exit for Garcia, who eventually came out and was chased across busy Main Street to a parking area behind a business, where Rodriguez punched Garcia and stabbed him once in the chest.
Garcia ran across Main Street, collapsed on the sidewalk and died in front of onlookers.
Rodriguez subsequently fled to Mexico, returned to California several days later and headed back across the border again after the Santa Ana Police Department released the restaurant's surveillance footage in hopes the public could help identify the killer.
On June 19, 2013, Rodriguez was arrested by the Michoacán State Police in La Estanzuela, Michoacán, Mexico, and was later extradited back to Orange County to face the trial that ended with yesterday's guilty verdict.