Julio Cesar Serrano, a parolee on an ankle monitor for serious felony convictions, was out of prison for only ten months before he murdered his girlfriend Martha Garcia. Serrano met Martha at their workplace, and after a few months of dating, he discovered that she was married, and kicked her out of the trailer where they were living. Despite telling his parole agent in the weeks before the murder that he was angry with Martha and worried that something might happen, and after being advised to stay away from her, Serrano kept seeing Martha. The night before the murder, Serrano had Martha pick him up from his family’s home in Los Angeles and drive them back to their trailer in San Bernardino. On the morning of the murder, Serrano brutally beat Martha, causing black eyes, a head injury, and knocking out her front teeth. He then stabbed Martha with a 12” knife over ten times before ultimately lodging the knife in her throat. Martha died as a result.
At trial, the pathologist testified to each of the defensive wounds that Martha sustained, explaining how she fought back throughout the attack, despite having a collapsed lung. Defendant then covered her body with a comforter, showered, and drove Martha’s car back to his family’s home in Los Angeles. There, he told his sister “I hurt Martha real bad.” He said he was suicidal, and asked to go to the hospital, where physicians attended to the knife wound to his hand and an injured ankle. At the hospital he admitted to law enforcement what he’d done, and just as he was about to be taken to the station, for the first time mentioned that “the voices made me do it.”
Accordingly, Serrano entered pleas of Not Guilty and Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, resulting in a two-phase trial. The jury first returned a verdict of 1st degree murder during the guilt phase. In the sanity phase, three experts testified regarding Defendant’s documented history of mental illness and their opinion regarding his mental state at the time of the killing. The defense called one retained defense expert as well as a court-appointed expert who opined that Serrano was insane at the time of the killing. Another court appointed psychologist testified for the People opining that while Serrano suffered from an unspecified mental illness, he had been sane at the time he killed Martha. Serrano opted not to take the stand to testify on his own behalf. The jury returned a quick verdict finding the defendant sane at the time of the murder.
The case was prosecuted by San Bernardino DDA Jennifer Carrillo. The verdict would not have been made possible without the help of the San Bernardino Police Department and investigating officer Detective Joshua Cunningham, as well as DA Investigator Amanda Holloway, Victim Advocate Claudia Coronado, and Investigative Technician Andrea Singleton.