In the summer of 2001, relatives discovered Jorge Perez naked and lying dead in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor of his southeast Fresno home. His throat had been slit.
Nearly eight years later, Perez's family will recall that terrible sight for a Fresno County Superior Court jury in the murder trial of Fernando Limon.
In opening statements Monday, defense lawyer Michael Aed told the jury of five women and seven men that the case "is not a whodunit."
Aed said Limon will testify that he killed Perez in self-defense. The reason: Perez, a homosexual, molested Limon, who is not gay.
Police believe Perez, 32, was killed on the evening of July 29, 2001. Relatives found his body two days later.
For years, the investigation into his death was at a dead end until forensic evidence and leads developed by Fresno police detectives linked Limon to the killing.
Prosecutor Chris Gularte said Limon, now 36, stabbed Perez to death in order to rob him of his wallet, checkbook, car and Sony PlayStation. Limon left his bloody fingerprints and palm print on the victim's bedroom closet, Gularte said.
But Aed outlined a different scenario. He said Limon was traveling from Mexico to the town of Lockeford near Lodi to be with his wife and children. But he only had enough money to ride a bus to Fresno.
While walking in Fresno, Limon by chance met Perez, who drove up in a silver car. Perez offered Limon a ride to Lockeford, but Perez first fed Limon and took him to the river to relax, Aed said.
The two men then returned to Perez's home on Rowell Avenue.
After a long day in the sun, Limon asked Perez for an aspirin, Aed said. But the pill made Limon drowsy, so Limon fell asleep in Perez's bedroom.
When he woke up, Limon was naked from the waist down, Aed said.
According to Aed, a naked Perez taunted Limon, saying "Get out of here. I've had my way with you."
Limon then got angry. "He feels violated because he's not gay," Aed told the panel.
The two men argued and both grabbed knives, Aed said. Limon then killed Perez, slitting the man's throat and stabbing him multiple times.
Scared, Limon took off in Perez's car, Aed said.
Jurors must determine whether Limon committed premeditated, first-degree murder and robbery. If convicted, Limon faces life in prison without parole.
But Aed told the panel that Limon didn't plan to kill Perez. He also didn't try to cover up the killing by cleaning up the bloody bedroom. Two bloody knives also were found in the bedroom, he said.
A day after Perez was killed, Limon was arrested in Lockeford on an unrelated assault charge.
In December 2005, he was serving a sentence in Corcoran State Prison when he learned that he would face a murder charge in connection with Perez's death.
He has been in the downtown Fresno jail since January 2006.
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