A psychologically disturbed “great dad” who nearly killed his estranged wife by stabbing her with a hunting knife and shooting her with a BB gun near a Santa Ana office complex was sentenced Thursday to 15 years to life in prison.
The defendant’s attorney unsuccessfully argued that his client endured psychological problems after a nephew was murdered and he learned his father was not his biological dad. A “cycle of depression” led him to harbor false beliefs, the attorney said in court, including the idea that his wife who he attacked had been having an affair with her own sister.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham gave defendant Juan Carlos Guadarrama nearly the maximum sentence, saying the victim was “caught completely unaware” by a man she had long trusted.
Pham also noted that the 44-year-old defendant “clearly planned to kill the victim and flee,” adding that he spelled out his intentions in a note and had a change of clothes in a bag with $800 in cash.
Guadarrama has “no significant criminal record” and suffered from a psychological disorder, but those factors did not outweigh the viciousness of the attack, Pham said.
Guadarrama’s daughter, Candy, wrote a letter to the judge requesting mercy for her father.
“He is a very good person,” she wrote. “He loves helping others. Juan is a person with a very big heart, honest and loyal. But most importantly he is a great dad.”
He was convicted Sept. 29 of attempted murder with a sentencing enhancement for premeditation and deliberation and criminal threats. Jurors also found true sentencing enhancement allegations for causing great bodily injury in a domestic violence incident and personally using a deadly weapon, and convicted him of a felony count of criminal threats.
Guadarrama arranged to meet the victim in the 1200 block of East Dyer Road on Sept. 20, 2014. Before she could get out of her car, he stabbed her in the chest, neck and back repeatedly, Deputy District Attorney Caroline Smith said.
The victim also sustained defensive wounds to her hands that required surgery, along with multiple fractures to her vertebrae and ribs, and “the pellet had to be removed from her neck,” the prosecutor said.
The woman’s shouts for help drew onlookers, prompting the defendant to run away. Guadarrama left behind the knife and the pellet gun as he hopped a wall, along with his shoes, and stripped off a bloodied shirt as he fled, Smith said.
The defendant was at large until Sept. 23, 2014. He had asked a neighbor for a ride to Tijuana, but when she did not cooperate, he began to threaten her, so she called police, Smith said.
Investigators instructed the neighbor to send a text message telling Guadarrama to meet her, “and the cops nabbed the defendant,” Smith said.
Guadarrama’s attorney, Jeremy Dolnick, argued the attack was not premeditated and said it was a cause of attempted voluntary manslaughter because it was done in the heat of passion.
The couple “started out with a beautiful relationship” and the defendant “was sort of living this dream” as “the guy who set up a soccer league for kids and adults and was a neighborhood role model,” the attorney said.
Then, in February 2014, his client’s nephew was “brutally murdered,” and “things take a turn,” Dolnick said, telling jurors that Guadarrama started drinking heavily and skipping regular hygiene to the extent that his wife would stay with others because his body odor was too offensive.
When his father died, he found out that he wasn’t his biological dad, the attorney said.
“This cycle of depression keeps going on and on,” Dolnick said.
Guadarrama then became convinced, falsely, that his wife was having an affair with her sister, Dolnick said. After awhile, the accusations took a toll on the relationship and she kicked the defendant out, he said.
A psychological expert testified that Guadarrama suffered from a “delusional disorder” that led him to believe “something that is not real,” Dolnick said. The defendant also was suffering from depressive disorder and alcohol abuse, his attorney said.
“I was truly hopeful for a verdict that would have reflected the mental health issues Mr. Guadarrama was suffering from at the time of the offense,” Dolnick told City News Service.
“I believe that when you contrast his life before 2014 to that in the months leading up to the assault, you see two different people with one explanation for the change.”
–City News Service