San Diego

Daughter Testifies in Vista Man's Preliminary Hearing for Wife's Death

Maria Elena Guzman-Cordova was reported missing on Oct. 14, 2017. Her remains were found just over a year later near Palomar Mountain.

A Vista man accused of killing his wife and dumping her body near Palomar Mountain listened Monday as their teenage daughter testified about the violence she witnessed in their home. 

Maria Elena Guzman-Cordova was reported missing on Oct. 14, 2017. Her remains were found just over a year later near Palomar Mountain. 

Her husband, Hector Martinez, was arrested on suspicion of her murder the following week. He has pleaded not guilty. 

The couple's 16-year-old daughter was the first witness to take the stand during Martinez' preliminary hearing. Cameras were not allowed to record as she gave emotional testimony about her family dynamic.

The teen described a time when Martinez gave her mother a bruised eye.

She said the last time she saw her mother was when both her parents dropped her off for a church retreat. When she returned several days later, Martinez told her Guzman had gone missing. 

It was the teen who called 911 to report her mother's disappearance, she testified. 

Martinez told police Guzman left their Vista apartment to go for a walk after the two had been in an argument. He reported his wife didn't take any belongings with her.

As the search for Guzman continued, the family's calls for help grew more public.

By the time the investigation into her disappearance reached the 1-year mark, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department was holding a news conference to bring attention to the case. 

"It’s odd that someone would go missing under these circumstances, without taking a phone, without taking their personal belongings. We’re definitely concerned; Maria’s family is concerned," SDSO Lt. Rich Williams said, at the time, with Martinez by his side.

The SDSO said evidence gathered over the course of their year-long investigation linked Martinez to Guzman's disappearance and death. 

Investigators believe Martinez may have killed his wife while their youngest daughter was in the home and disposed of her body the next day. They suspect Martinez had Guzman's body in the trunk of his car while he dropped his daughter off at his parent's house.

She may have wanted to end their marriage at the time of her disappearance, according to prosecutors with the San Diego County District Attorney's office.

The defendant's two other daughters may also be called to the witness stand during his hearing.

Martinez is being held in San Diego County Jail without bail. He faces 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted. 

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