Man on trial for killing ex-girlfriend in 1995

Jose Luis Arreola Cruz, 39, accused of murdering ex-girlfriend after party in East Palo Alto

A trial for a man charged with murdering his 19-year-old ex-girlfriend after a First Communion party in East Palo Alto more than 17 years ago got under way in San Mateo County Superior Court Monday, Sept. 17.

Jose Luis Arreola Cruz, 39, sat without expression and used a Spanish language interpreter throughout Monday's proceedings. Deputy District Attorney Al Giannini said in his opening statement that Cruz stabbed Gabriella Tello so many times in the neck and chest in the kitchen of her home on May 21, 1995, that her head was nearly severed.

Motivated by a combination of alcohol, "jealousy and stupidity," Cruz allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend with two different kitchen knives that were recovered from the scene, Giannini said. Prosecutors said that the crime was witnessed by the couple's daughter, Stephanie, who was almost three years old at the time.

"This is a very simple, sad, brutal story," Giannini said.

Cruz met Tello when she was just 16 years old, and she quickly became pregnant. The two lived together intermittently, and their relationship was abusive from the start, Giannini said.

"He used to hit her, he used to grab her. They used to have loud fights all the time for various reasons," he said.

One of Tello's younger sisters, Rocio -- who testified Monday afternoon -- said that there were occasions when she saw Cruz push her sister downstairs and pull her into the bathroom, where he would slap her and pull her hair.

Tello eventually broke up with the defendant, though the two still had contact because of Stephanie, Rocio said. Rocio was among four children celebrating their First Communion on the day of the murder. Cruz showed up uninvited to a party celebrating the event at the victim's uncle's house in East Palo Alto.

Giannini said he intends to show the jury video footage taken at the party, which shows the defendant clearly drunk and arguing with Tello. The prosecutor showed a still image from the video during his opening statement, which showed Cruz wearing a purple shirt, talking to Tello alone in a corner of the backyard. Giannini said that multiple witnesses heard the two arguing over Tello's new boyfriend.

Eventually, Tello left the party to drop off one of her sisters, some friends and her daughter at a babysitter. Cruz followed in his own car and intentionally bumped into her vehicle the entire way, Giannini said.

The two made their way to Tello's home, where she was discovered dead on the kitchen floor by her sister Monica. Stephanie was found in a back room, where she had been locked after seeing her dad "hit" her mom in the head and chest, Giannini said.

Despite her young age, Stephanie "remembers vividly her father murdering her mother," Giannini said. Cruz immediately fled to Mexico, where he stayed until March 2011, when he was arrested by border patrol trying to re-enter the U.S. near Laredo, Texas. Cruz has always denied being in Tello's home, Giannini said, though a beer bottle with his fingerprint and his DNA on it was found in the kitchen.

Defense attorney Dek Ketchum declined to give an opening statement Monday. Cruz remains in custody without bail and faces life in prison if convicted.

— Bay City News Service


Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

"He used to hit her, he used to grab her. They used to have loud fights all the time for various reasons," he said.

Quite a man, hitting a woman. A real man walks away.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm

> Prosecutors said that the crime was witnessed by the couple's daughter, Stephanie, who was almost three years old at the time.

So I take it there is no real doubt as to the guilt of the defendant. I wonder why such a person as this would not qualify for the death penalty? I am totally against the death penalty if there is absolutely any doubt or extenuating circumstances. I understand the issues, but California is not Texas.

When I heard that the man in Sweden who murdered all those people, Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77, injured 242 ... and received as a sentence (from Wikipedia):

On 24 August 2012, Oslo District Court found Breivik sane and guilty of murdering 77 people. He was sentenced to preventive detention, a special form of prison sentence, with a term of 21 years and a minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of extension for as long as he is deemed a danger to society;

I think how can such a man be allowed to live? If there was a doubt, or a politically extenuating circumstance, a mental defect, some contrition ... something, but it seems to me there are some people who deserve the death penalty.

This criminal seems like one who deserves death, as distinquished from life in prison or life in prison without parole.

I have to also express that the post prior to mine about 'a real man walking away' instead of hitting a women seems so inadequate as to almost be comedic ... as if there was any doubt about severing someone's head by stabbing being manly?

As far as being manly or even human, why did this poor woman and her child not receive some kind of help or protection from this criminally insane monster?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Anon - that wasn't Sweden. To us, all of those Scando places may seem the same, but they actually aren't. Also, what does that killer have to w/this case? What did I miss? to me, it seems like you're comparing apples & oranges. This is why: they are a different country, w/a different sized population, a different amount of crime & to a certain extent, different views on murder, which may result in punishments different from ours.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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