Fresno pair guilty in bizarre murder-torture case

A police investigator enters the backyard of a home Aug. 22, 2013, on McKenzie Avenue in central Fresno where the body of Oscar Seja was found in the crawl space under the house.
A police investigator enters the backyard of a home Aug. 22, 2013, on McKenzie Avenue in central Fresno where the body of Oscar Seja was found in the crawl space under the house.

Two Fresno residents were convicted Thursday in a bizarre murder-torture case.

Margaret Alaniz, 25, wiped tears from her eyes after a Fresno County Superior Court jury found her guilty of second-degree murder in the August 2013 stabbing death of 27-year-old Oscar Seja. The jury also found her guilty of torturing a woman identified in court only as Jane Doe.

Anthony Gilbert Nunez, 44, stood silently when the same verdict was announced for him.

Both face the possibility of life behind bars when they are sentenced on Nov. 17.

Both sides agree that Seja had raped Jane Doe before he was killed and buried under the central Fresno house where the killing happened. Defense attorney Gerald Schwab Jr. described the home as a “meth head crash house with miscreants coming and going at all hours of the day and night.”

He said Alaniz and Nunez are friends who did drugs together.

The issue was whether the two defendants were entitled to use street justice in killing Seja.

Schwab, who represented Alaniz, and defense attorney Amy Guerra, who represented Nunez, argued for a conviction of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Deliberating for four hours, the jury of six men and six women rejected charges of premeditated first-degree murder before settling on second degree, which is a killing caused by a defendant’s total disregard for human life.

Everyone was on meth.

Defense attorney Gerald Schwab Jr., describing the home where a woman was tortured and raped and Oscar Seja was killed

Prosecutor Gabriel Brickey said the evidence supports the jury’s conclusion. He described the events that led to Seja’s killing:

Jane Doe, then 35, went to the central Fresno home to settle a debt. Alaniz invited her in.

Soon after, Alaniz, who is known as “C-Loca,” shut the window blinds, turned up the music and assaulted Jane Doe. Nunez, who is known as “Troubles,” then grabbed the woman, tossed her into a closet and tied her hands and feet.

Later that night, Nunez had a change of heart and untied the victim, causing Alaniz to get enraged and spray Jane Doe with an acid. Jane Doe was then held captive in the house for several days before Nunez took her to the garage. There, Seja offered her food and protection in exchange for sex. Powerless, she agreed.

Once Alaniz learned of the sex, she became enraged.

Alaniz and Nunez fought with Seja inside the home. While Nunez held him down, Alaniz stabbed him 22 times in what Brickey told the jury was a chaotic act of “vigilantism and revenge.” Afterward, Alaniz told others inside the house to clean up the bloody mess.

It was a rash, impulsive act.

Defense attorney Gerald Schwab Jr. of the death of Oscar Seja, who was stabbed 22 times with two folding knives

To get her freedom, Jane Doe had to help Alaniz and Nunez bury Seja’s body under the home, Brickey said.

“Everyone was on meth,” Schwab said, and there were children in the house when Seja was killed.

Brickey said Seja’s body remained in the house two to three days before he was buried.

Seja was stabbed with two folding knives; his DNA was found on the knives, Brickey said.

Police found the knives wrapped in a diaper that was in a bleach bottle inside a garbage bag.

“It was a rash, impulsive act,” Schwab said of the killing. “Unfortunately, the jury found it was done with malice.”

Because Alaniz has a prior felony conviction for robbery, she faces nearly 40 years to life in prison. Nunez, who also has a criminal record, faces nearly 25 years to life in prison.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts