Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A 26-year-old man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death in a dark Santa Ana alley.

Luis Antonio Garcia Morales was convicted Nov. 24 of first-degree murder, and jurors found true a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler described the crime as a “very, very bad knife attack” in which the victim was “tricked into going into that alley at the cost of her life.”

Morales duped 21-year-old Maria Isabel Cerrillo into meeting him in the alley between Laurel and Jackson streets on Nov. 13, 2012, because she had stopped communicating with him. He stabbed her about 50 times and left her for dead.

Cerrillo had stopped responding to Morales’ text messages around Veterans Day that year, prompting him to buy a new phone in the name of the victim’s lesbian lover, with whom she had recently broken up, Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson said.

Morales used the phone to exchange text messages with Cerrillo, who thought she was communicating with her ex-live-in lover, and the two agreed to meet.

“Instead, in that alley, she encountered defendant Morales,” the prosecutor said. “She was still clutching her keys as he stabbed her and left her to die.”

Morales had been “obsessed” with Cerrillo, who grew frightened of the defendant and instructed her father to lie to him so he would stop bothering her, Mendelson said.

The father told Morales, “Hey, she had an epileptic seizure and she’s gone to San Diego” and won’t return home for months, Mendelson said. But that didn’t deter Morales, who concocted the phone ruse to set up the meeting with Cerrillo, the prosecutor said.

After the fatal stabbing, Morales sold his Toyota Camry and called his boss at Chinatown Express and said he needed to quit his job and get his last paycheck before moving back to Mexico, according to Mendelson.

But police caught Morales at the Santa Ana restaurant, after getting an anonymous tip generated by news reports about the stabbing.

According to Kevin Song of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, Morales thought he was going to marry Cerrillo, who was actually just using him for money.

At the same time she was dating the defendant and living with her lesbian lover, Cerrillo had a long-distance relationship in Northern California with another man to whom she was engaged, Song said. He said she told a friend she was “only dating Luis for his money, because he buys her stuff.”

Cerrillo asked Morales to hire a “witch doctor” to cast a spell on her ex-lover and the ex-lover’s new girlfriend to end their relationship, Song said. A short time later, she stopped responding to his text messages, the defense attorney said.

When they did meet in the alley, “she told Mr. Morales she did not want a relationship with him, was only using him for his money, taunting him, ridiculing him. For lack of a better words, he flipped out” and attacked her with a pocket knife, Song said.

—City News Service

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