Marlene Rubi Sosa Fajardo wanted a divorce. She made it clear to her husband, Jose Fajardo, that she wanted out of their marriage.
“Marlene was not happy,” Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth DeJong told a jury Friday.
They both agreed the husband would move to the back of their home in Modesto’s airport neighborhood. The wife and their two children would live in the front of the house until the couple could formally end their marriage. That never happened.
The prosecutor told the jurors that Jose Fajardo “brutally massacred and bludgeoned Marlene” in their home Aug. 28, 2013. “For him, divorce was not an option,” DeJong said in her opening statement in Jose Fajardo’s trial Friday morning.
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The 30-year-old woman was found dead in her home. Her husband, now 34, has been in custody since then, awaiting prosecution.
The defendant is charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s stabbing death. He also faces an enhancement of using a deadly weapon, a knife. The prosecution claims he acted with premeditation.
The defense’s version of what happened is similar to the prosecution’s, Deputy Public Defender Saul Garcia told the jury. But he asked the jurors to focus on what led up to the stabbing, what happened in the couple’s bedroom and the defendant’s state of mind.
Garcia argued that the defendant’s actions were done in the heat of passion and the jury should consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter; not first- or second-degree murder. “This was an act of emotion,” Garcia said in his opening statement Friday.
The prosecutor argued that the defendant’s wife suffered 67 stab wounds, and investigators found two bloodied knives at the home that night. DeJong said one of the knives was found with a bent blade under the bed. She said the evidence shows Jose Fajardo should be convicted of first-degree murder.
The couple had married at a young age; she was 17 and he was 18. They decided to start a family together. Like many others, the couple encountered financial difficulties.
The defense attorney said the housing crisis forced their family to leave their San Leandro home with hopes of a better chance of succeeding in Modesto. The family moved into a home on Santa Ana Avenue, near Yosemite Boulevard.
From the defendant’s point of view, he had devoted his entire life to his family, Garcia told the jury. While he and his family lived in Modesto, he continued to commute for his job at a Bay Area storage company. He worked 12-hour shifts, his attorney said, ultimately reaching a lead position at the company.
Eventually, marital problems surfaced. Marlene Fajardo wanted her marriage to end, and she had become more vocal about her displeasure, according to the defense attorney. Her husband suspected something was wrong.
Garcia said Marlene Fajardo began seeking the attention of a co-worker. He told the jury she often would send the co-worker text messages and make phone calls that seemed romantic. The defense attorney said the co-worker believed Marlene Fajardo was infatuated with him.
Several hours before the stabbing, the defendant went to his wife’s workplace, suspecting an extramarital affair. When he arrived, he spotted his wife chatting with her co-worker near a parked car. Jose Fajardo assaulted the man, who didn’t fight back, the defense attorney said. The defendant left soon after.
Later, the defendant was at home with the couple’s then-9-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. He tried calling his wife, but she wouldn’t answer. Marlene Fajardo called her best friend, who went to the home to calm the defendant. The friend then called Marlene Fajardo, telling her he was calm now and she could return home.
After she returned, the couple sat in a parked car in the driveway. They had an hourlong discussion. They went back inside the house, and life appeared to return to normal. The couple had taken in the defendant’s brother, Eduardo Fajardo, who needed to stay with them. He would sleep on their couch.
Garcia argued that Eduardo Fajardo had never before seen the couple fight, so seeing them earlier in the parked car seemed significant to him. But the brother said he didn’t see or hear any indications of a dispute for the next few hours until he heard commotion from inside the couple’s bedroom.
About 12:40 a.m., the brother said, his sister-in-law called out to him, “Help me, Eddie. Help me,” according to the prosecutor. DeJong told the jury he found the defendant stabbing his wife repeatedly.
Eduardo Fajardo told deputies he grabbed the knife from his brother, saying “Kill me instead,” the prosecutor told the jurors. But the defendant took the knife back from his brother and continued to stab his wife.
At one point, Marlene Fajardo told her husband she was pregnant, while he continued to stab her as she crawled to a bathroom. She was not pregnant. DeJong argued that this was her “last chance at survival,” hoping her husband would stop stabbing her.
Marlene Fajardo’s body was found in the master bathroom. Her son and daughter were home at the time but did not witness the stabbing. Her husband’s brother called 911 to report the stabbing, and Jose Fajardo surrendered peacefully when deputies arrived.
Testimony in the murder trial is expected to conclude by the end of next week in Stanislaus Superior Court. It will then be up to the 12 jurors to decide Jose Fajardo’s fate.