A Fresno man who told police that his girlfriend committed suicide by shooting herself in the head will stand trial on a charge of murder, a judge ruled Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court.
Judge Houry Sanderson made her decision after police homicide Detective Ray Villalvazo testified that he believed Daniel Cervantes, 47, shot Miriam Corona in the back of the head and planted a gun in her right hand.
Cervantes’ lawyer, Erin Ormonde, however, said Villalvazo’s conclusion was “highly speculative.”
Police found Corona dead on a living-room sofa of the couple’s home at 1804 E. Clinton Ave. near Blackstone Avenue the morning of April 24, 2013.
Because Corona was shot in the back of the head – and not in the temple – prosecutor William Lacy contends it’s unlikely she committed suicide. In addition, Cervantes walked to Walgreens at Clinton and Blackstone to call 911, even though he was carrying a cellphone, testimony revealed.
The evidence against Cervantes was made public Tuesday and Wednesday at his preliminary hearing.
During the hearing, police Officer Paige McQuay testified that Cervantes appeared “pretty calm” when they talked outside his house. McQuay said Cervantes told him that Corona had shot herself and then he calmly took him and another officer inside the home to see the victim. In her right hand was a small pistol, the officer said.
McQuay said he later spoke to Walgreens employees, who said Cervantes walked in calmly and asked to use the store phone to call 911. He said a clerk told him that Cervantes said his girlfriend had been abusing drugs. The clerk also said Cervantes told her that his girlfriend had hugged him before she shot herself, McQuay testified.
McQuay said the store manager told him that Cervantes patiently waited to use the store phone. But the manager also noticed that Cervantes had a cellphone and was using it to send text messages, the officer testified.
Ormonde contended that Corona was despondent because she was abusing methamphetamine and Child Protective Services had taken her children. She said Cervantes told police he didn’t shoot his girlfriend and that he loved her and they had “a perfect relationship.”
“They only argued about her drug use,” Ormonde told the judge.
But Villalvazo said Corona’s relatives told police that she never talked about committing suicide.
Cervantes will be arraigned on the murder charge Jan. 7. If convicted at trial, he faces life in prison.