A San Diego man convicted in the brutal killing of his wealthy Texas boyfriend in Mexico, as part of an intricate scheme to inherit his estate, was sentenced Monday.
Federal prosecutors confirmed that David Enrique Meza, 27, of Imperial Beach, was sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing his 52-year-old Texas retiree boyfriend, Jake Clyde Merendino, 24 times.
Prosecutors also said Meza slashed Merendino's throat, and then afterward dumped his body in a ravine near a highway near Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
In federal court, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller called the homicide an “inhumane, depraved act.” He chose a harsh sentence due to Meza’s "heinous" actions.
Meza's then-girlfriend, Taylor Marie Langston, was also indicted for Merendino's death back in May 2015.
While describing the reasoning behind Meza's sentence, Judge Miller said, “One can’t even imagine the torture and torment Mr. Merendino experienced.”
Since Merendino was killed in Baja, California, the trial was held in federal court. Meza was convicted of one count of Interstate or Foreign Domestic Violence Resulting in Murder and one count of Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice by a federal jury.
On May 2, 2017, the second anniversary of Merendino's death, the federal jury returned a guilty verdict. Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson said the victim cared for Meza, lavishing him with expensive gifts and trying to create a life together.
Meza and Merendino met online in June 2013, according to evidence presented at trial. They soon became involved in a romantic relationship. But while dating Merendino, Meza continued pursuing a long-term romantic relationship with Langston who was pregnant with his child.
Prosecutors described Meza as living a double life. Days before the fatal attack, he produced a handwritten will that made him the sole heir to Merendino’s estate, according to prosecutors.
Meza and Langston planned to exploit Merendino and for Meza to eventually kill Merendino, confirmed prosecutors.
Merendino was last seen in the early morning hours of May 2, 2015, when he drove to the hotel he and Meza were staying at in Baja California, called Bobby's By the Sea, to report help for a stranded friend on the road.
His body was discovered by Mexican officials around 3 a.m., in a ravine near the highway that connected to Rosarito and Ensenada, according to the FBI. Federal prosecutors said the area is known as Los Arenales.
Meza was seen crossing the U.S. border by motorcycle at 3:57 a.m., according to investigators.
Evidence presented at trial showed Meza and Langston returned to the Bobby's By the Sea hotel at approximately 7 p.m. the same day as the slaying, in order for Meza to collect items from the room he had shared with the victim.
Mexican officials later reported to the FBI that Merendino’s $15,000, diamond-stuffed Rolex watch, iPhone, iPad and laptop were all missing.
When questioned by investigators, Meza and Langston claimed they had been visiting a friend named “Joe” in Tijuana at the time of Merendino’s murder.
But phone records and Facebook posts contradicted that alibi, and “Joe,” later identified as Jose Aguilera, told investigators he had not seen the couple for a year and a half and they have never visited his home.
According to investigation documents, Aguilera told agents that Meza called him a week after the killing and asked him to lie to police if they called, telling them that the couple came to his house.
The prosecution’s evidence included text messages sent by Meza to Merendino professing his love for him. Messages were also shared in which Meza expressed his disdain for Merendino to his then-pregnant fiancée, Langston.
Documentation was also shown to the jury suggesting Meza was the sole beneficiary of Merendino’s Baja condo, worth nearly $300,000.