A prosecutor revealed details of a brutal murder Wednesday involving a man accused of stabbing his estranged wife more than 30 times as she ran for her life in a Carlsbad parking lot.
“She tried to get away from him. She couldn’t get the knife away from him,” Deputy District Attorney Susan Gust said in court as she described the violent last moments of victim Ariflor Gonzalez’s life.
The person on the other end of the knife was allegedly the victim’s husband of more than two decades, Pedro Zurita, 49.
Zurita was arrested Saturday after Gonzalez was found stabbed to death, lying in a pool of blood, in the parking lot of the place where she worked in the 5100-block of Val Allan Way. She died just before 8 p.m., police said.
According to investigators, a family member called 911 to report a domestic violence incident. An hour later, officers tracked down Zurita and took him into custody on suspicion of Gonzalez’s murder.
Gust said police were also able to find the murder weapon – a knife Zurita purchased earlier that day at a local Wal-Mart. Zurita allegedly threw the knife out of a car moments after he fatally stabbed his wife, and the knife was found near a canyon.
Gust said Zurita used the knife to stab Gonzalez more than 30 times, all over her body, including major arteries. As he attacked her, she ran, desperately trying to escape.
“She ran out of the building bleeding. She ran into the parking lot where he pursued her. He chased her and stabbed her multiple times,” the prosecutor said Wednesday. “When the victim could run no more, she fell to the ground and he continued to stab her.”
According to Gust, the couple had been married for more than 22 years and had four children. Their youngest child is 3 years old.
The couple separated in December 2013, and Gonzalez was not interested in mending the marriage. Over the past few months, Gust said Gonzalez had told friends that Zurita had threatened to kill her, and she feared for her life.
The prosecutor said Zurita felt his estranged wife was moving on from their relationship and had not been willing to reconcile, and this angered him.
The couple both worked at the same building in Carlsbad but were assigned to different shifts.
The prosecutor said that on the night of the murder, Zurita used his employee key card to gain access to the building while Gonzalez was working.
As the pair struggled and Gonzalez ran into the parking lot, surveillance cameras outside the building caught a small snippet of the deadly chase and stabbing, Gust said.
Due to the brutality of the killing and flight risk of the defendant, the prosecutor asked a judge to set a high bail for Zurita Wednesday.
The judge set his bail at $5 million, agreeing that the suspect is a danger to the public.
Zurita is currently being held at the Vista Detention Facility. His next appearance in court is set for Apr. 24. If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces 26 years to life in prison.
Gust said this has been an extremely difficult time for the couple’s children, who are being cared for by relatives.
“It was a brutal killing and it’s very difficult for the family. They’re devastated and they’re still trying to process what has happened to them. They have a lot of healing to do. This is going to be a long process for them,” she said.
On Saturday, a family member told NBC 7 that Gonzalez had been living with the couple’s four kids in the family’s home in Oceanside before she was killed. Neighbors said the family was quiet but noticed Zurita had recently become distraught over the separation from his wife.