A Vista man arrested and charged with murder more than a year after his wife's "suspicious" disappearance entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment Monday.
Hector Martinez, 39, is accused of killing his wife Maria Elena Guzman-Cordova, 38, in October of 2017 and disposing her body near Palomar Mountain.
Deputies arrested Martinez last Thursday weeks after investigators found Guzman's remains, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department (SDSO). Deputies said that evidence gathered over the course of their investigation linked Martinez to her death.
Cordova was last seen leaving her home on North Santa Fe Avenue on Oct. 13. Her family reported her missing the following day.
Martinez told police that Guzman left their Vista apartment that night to go for a walk after the two had had an argument. Martinez reported that Guzman didn't take anything with her.
Her family told investigators that she suffered from depression and didn't have her medication.
Prosecutors said Monday that Martinez killed his wife, possibly while their youngest daughter was in the home, and disposed of it the next day. Deputy District Attorney Marnie Layon said investigators believe Martinez had Guzman's body in the trunk of his car while he dropped his daughter off at his parent's house.
Guzman may have wanted to end their marriage at the time of her disappearance, according to the District Attorney's office.
Martinez pleaded not guilty to murder and is being held without bail. If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison. His next court appearance is scheduled for November 6.
Layon said Martinez was a flight risk because he has a family home in Mexico.
In September of this year, after nearly a year with and no leads, Guzman's family and the Sheriff's Department held a news conference to call for a renewal in the search.
"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.
Martinez told a Telemundo 20 reporter that it was possible his wife could have run away. When asked if he had a message for his wife who could see it on the news, Martinez promised her a better life if she returned.
Deputies are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the department at (858) 285-6330, or at (858) 565-5200 after hours. Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477, or online at crimestoppers.org. The case number is 17153719.