A state appeals court panel has upheld a man’s conviction for murdering his estranged wife’s friend, who was killed in Lynwood and whose dismembered body was left in a car in San Bernardino.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there were numerous errors in the trial of Ernesto Ornelas, who was convicted of first-degree murder for the Sept. 19, 2015, killing of Miguel Evora, 28.
The appellate court justices noted in their ruling this week that Ornelas “employed a sophisticated ruse to lure the victim to defendant’s home.”
“The trickery included hacking his wife’s Facebook account and impersonating her on social media in an elaborate scheme to kill Evora, who defendant was convinced was his wife’s lover,” the justices noted. “There followed a brutal lying-in-wait murder and post-mortem dismemberment of the victim. The metal saw apparently used to cut up the victim was found at the scene after defendant set fire to his residence in an effort to cover up the crime.”
Evora’s remains were discovered four days later inside the trunk of his car, which was found parked on a residential street in San Bernardino. He had been shot three times in the neck, chest and arm, and dismembered with a jagged tool after his death, according to the 32-page ruling.
Investigators subsequently determined that a fire had deliberately been set in Ornelas’ living room, but that DNA testing established that Evora’s blood was on three items recovered from the living room, the justices noted.
Along with the murder charge, Ornelas was convicted of arson, stalking his estranged wife and contempt of court for violating a protective order involving her.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait, along with a gun allegation.
Ornelas was sentenced in 2017 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.