A Montebello man pleaded guilty Thursday to murdering his wife and stuffing her body in the trunk of a car before disappearing with four of their children in 2014.
Daniel Diego Perez, 45, was immediately sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison following his guilty plea to second-degree murder.
He was sentenced to an additional seven years and four months behind bars for his guilty plea to two counts of child abuse for endangering two of his sons — who were then 6 and 8 — during a standoff in San Diego County following a pursuit.
His wife Erica’s body was found in the trunk of a car that was parked near the family’s home, and a statewide Amber Alert was issued for her husband and their children that ended less than a week later with a freeway standoff in the Santee area.
At a December 2015 hearing in which Perez was ordered to stand trial, Deputy Medical Examiner Paul Gliniecki testified that the cause of the 39-year- old woman’s Dec. 5, 2014, death was probable asphyxia due to manual strangulation.
Gliniecki said Erica Perez also suffered multiple traumatic injuries, and that he believed she had been beaten before being strangled.
Four of the couple’s children — then ranging in age from 6 to 11 — were in the car as their father was being pursued by 15 police cars with their lights flashing on Dec. 11, 2014, according to Deputy District Attorney Miji Vellakkatel.
“He lied to the kids. He knew Erica was dead because he killed her,” the prosecutor told the judge last December.
Perez’s 2014 Toyota Camry was located by police in El Cajon as a result of a LoJack tracking device on the sedan, but he refused to pull over. He eventually stopped in the middle of the eastbound state Route 52 connector road to southbound state Route 67, and two of the children ran toward officers positioned behind the Camry.
Perez remained in the car for about an hour with the other two children before the three got out of the car and police tackled Perez and took him into custody.
The four boys were later reunited with relatives, police said.
The Perez family had not been seen since Dec. 5, and relatives had reported them missing.
–City News Service