A San Diego man accused of living a double life and brutally killing a wealthy Texas man in Mexico more than a year ago in order to inherit his estate, has been convicted of murder.
David Enrique Meza, and his then-girlfriend, Taylor Marie Langston, were indicted in the December 2015 death of 52-year-old Jake Clyde Merendino.
Because Merendino was killed in Baja, California, the trial is in federal court. The jury convicted Meza of both charges: one count of Interstate or Foreign Domestic Violence Resulting in Murder and one count of Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice.
The jury returned the verdict on the second anniversary of Merendino's death.
“David Meza took the life of a man who cared for him, lavished him with expensive gifts and who wanted to create a life with him,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson in a statement. “On this day, the second anniversary of Jake Merendino’s death, we salute the jury for delivering justice to a greedy killer who will now have to answer for his cruelty.”
Prosecutors describe the fatal stabbing of the wealthy Merendino as "a love affair gone wrong."
Meza and Langston intended to take advantage of Merendino and for Meza to eventually kill Merendino in the early hours of May 2, 2015 in Baja California.
Merendino’s body was found in a ravine near the highway that links Rosarito and Ensenada, according to the FBI.
Meza and Langston were captured on video re-entering the U.S. soon after, according to investigators.
When questioned by investigators, Meza and Langston allegedly claimed they had been visiting with a friend named “Joe” in Tijuana at the time of Merendino’s murder.
But Foster said phone records and Facebook posts contradicted that alibi, and “Joe” told investigators he had not seen the couple for a year and a half and they have never visited his home.
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
Documentation was also shown to the jury suggesting Meza was the sole beneficiary of Merendino’s Baja condo, worth nearly $300,000.
Langston entered a plea agreement in February. The San Diego-Union Tribune reports Langston pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Meza's attorney argued it would be difficult for Meza to drag Merendino's body since the victim was 6-foot, 4-inches tall and approximately 310 pounds.
The attorney also told jurors there is no DNA evidence linking Meza to the crime.
Meza will be sentenced on Aug. 7 at 9 a.m.