A convicted felon who allegedly attempted to strangle his girlfriend and her two children at their Riverside home, then fled to Mexico where he spent years in hiding, must stand trial for attempted murder and other offenses, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Leopoldo Martinez Garcia, 40, was apprehended earlier this year following a search by local and federal authorities that spanned well over a decade.

At the end of a preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael Kellogg ruled there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on two counts each of attempted murder and child abuse, along with one count each of attempted torture, false imprisonment, making criminal threats, assault with a firearm, witness intimidation, felony vandalism and being a felon in possession of a gun.

The judge scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Jan. 2 at the Riverside Hall of Justice. The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

According to Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback, on Aug. 23, 2004, Garcia became enraged with his then-girlfriend, whose identity was not released, during an argument in her residence in the 2700 block of Iris Street, where he allegedly choked the victim until she fell unconscious.

Railsback alleged the defendant also choked and beat the woman’s 1-year-old and 4-year-old children.

“While holding up a shotgun, Garcia threatened to kill the victim and one of her kids and also put the second child inside a dryer appliance,” Railsback said.

The convicted felon allegedly held the family for hours until the woman was able to grab her two kids and slip out of the home to call 911, according to the police spokesman.

When patrol officers reached the residence, Garcia was gone, and a search of the area turned up nothing.

Investigators believe he immediately fled south of the border and changed his identity.

Railsback said the Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force, which includes Riverside police detectives, was instrumental in tracking down the wanted man after his nearly 15 years on the run. He was located and arrested without incident in May by Mexican state police in Michoacan. The methods used to pinpoint his whereabouts were not disclosed.

Court records indicate Garcia has two prior convictions, but the offenses occurred in another jurisdiction and were not specified.

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