San Diego

Boyfriend Accused of Strangling Young Mother in Front of Child in Oceanside Pleads Not Guilty

The body of 22-year-old Melissa Contreras was found dead inside a vehicle in Oceanside earlier this week.

A man accused of strangling a young mother in front of their two-year-old son in a car outside his paren'ts Oceanside home pleaded not guilty to murder and child abuse charges, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's office. 

Suspect Uriel Leon, 24, burst into tears in court Thursday when prosecutors detailed the crimes he allegedly committed on Monday night.

Barlow said the incident unfolded when Contreras, of Oceanside, dropped off her two boys at Leon's parent's house Monday morning before she went to work.

When she came back from work, prosecutors say the couple - who had been together several years - got into an argument. 

Leon got into the car with their two-year-old and confronted Contreras, prosecutors details in court. 

Contreras' family, in court on Thursday, sobbed as they listened to Barlow detail the attack.  

"The two-year-old was in the car the entire time and once the defendant positioned himself behind the victim, we believe, he strangled her, killing her at that point," Barlow told reporters after the arraignment.

Cameras outside the home recorded the entire attack, Barlow said. 

A neighbor reported seeing the body lying down inside the vehicle, near the intersection of Luna and West Redondo Drive, at about 8:41 p.m. and called police. 

Leon was formally charged with two counts of murder and one count of felony child abuse. He pleaded not guilty.

The judge ordered Leon to be held on $2 million bail, saying he wanted to send a message about how seriously they take domestic abuse cases at the Vista Courthouse. 

If convicted, Leon faces 25 years to life in prison. 

A homicide investigation from the Oceanside Police Detectives from the Crimes of Violence Unit is ongoing.

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