Murder charges were filed Tuesday against Erika Sandoval in the shooting death of Exeter police officer Daniel Green, her ex-husband and father of her 2-year-old child.
Charges include the special circumstance of lying in wait. If found guilty, Sandoval would face life in prison without the possibility of parole or possibly the death penalty.
At a news conference to announce the charges, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said Tuesday that the decision whether to seek the death penalty will be made “at a much later date.”
Sandoval was also charged with two special allegations involving the use of a handgun, which adds prison time to a sentence.
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Investigators are confident that they found the gun Sandoval used to kill Green, Ward said. He would not say who owned the gun.
The investigation is continuing, he said.
Green, 31, was found dead about 4:40 p.m. Friday at his home in Goshen after he did not show up to work and someone from the Exeter department went to check on him.
He’d been shot several times, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department said. The time of death is still being investigated as part of the autopsy, he said.
Sheriff’s investigators and detectives from the Visalia police department immediately began following leads, and Sandoval, 28, was arrested about 5 p.m. the next day.
How long Sandoval waited inside the home is under investigation, but “it does appear that there was quite a bit of time in the home before officer Green arrived,” Ward said after the news conference.
Lying in wait means the suspect concealed his or her purpose, waited and watched for an opportunity, made a surprise attack and intended to kill by surprise, Ward said.
At an arraignment Tuesday afternoon at the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility, Sandoval pleaded not guilty. She’s being held without bail because she is charged with a murder involving a special circumstance.
She was represented by attorney Dan Chambers of Irvine.
Sandoval has no criminal record that the District Attorney’s Office is aware of, said Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz, the lead prosecutor.
Ward said at the news conference that he wanted to “quell rumors” that Green was guilty of domestic violence in his relationship with Sandoval.
Green and Sandoval were arrested in February 2011 by deputies who answered a call about a domestic dispute, but the District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and “no criminal conduct occurred by either, and any conclusion to the contrary is unsupported,” he said.
Another report of a domestic dispute involving Green was submitted to the D.A. two months earlier, and a review at the time showed “officer Green committed no criminal conduct,” he said.
Court records show the two were sharing custody of their 2-year-old boy under a court order and apparently had a contentious relationship.
They were married for two years ending in 2012, but continued to see each other on and off after their divorce. She became pregnant after the divorce and gave birth in January 2013. She lived with Green at his Goshen home for about six months after the baby was born, then moved to her parents’ home in Visalia.
Court papers showed Green and Sandoval engaged in heated disputes about child custody, exchanging numerous accusatory text messages and blaming each other in court filings.
The child, a boy, is under the care of family.