A Lake Elsinore man who smothered his wife and then tried to torch her remains to cover up the crime was sentenced today to 61 years to life in prison.
Roberto Gallardo Aguilar was convicted Feb. 9 of first-degree murder and witness intimidation for the May 22, 2009, slaying of 22-year-old Sharon Elizabeth Contreras.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Albert Wojcik imposed the maximum punishment, noting that Aguilar has a prior felony strike on his record.
According to Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, the 29-year-old Aguilar and Contreras were in the midst of a divorce when she was killed.
Witnesses told sheriff's investigators that the defendant stated on several occasions that "he would rather see Sharon dead than with someone else," according to the prosecutor's trial brief.
Aguilar also bragged to a friend that he had abused Contreras, stabbing her in the stomach with a knife and inflicting other wounds with impunity, according to Peuvrelle.
The couple, who had a son together, separated about a month before the attack, after she served him with divorce papers.
About 1:45 on the morning of the murder, Aguilar left his job at a Garden Grove nightclub without saying where he was going, Peuvrelle said.
Aguilar drove to Lake Elsinore, where Contreras was living in her father's house on Amorose Drive, and smothered her during the ensuing confrontation, according to the prosecutor.
Aguilar took the body to a deserted area near Temescal Canyon and Jeff roads and set it aflame. Passing motorists thought there was a small brush fire and called 911, leading to the discovery of Contreras' partially burned remains, according to trial testimony.
Four days later, Aguilar told a friend, Luis Sandoval, that he had gotten into a fight with Contreras and she was "La chinge," which roughly translated from Spanish means, "I (expletive) her up," according to the prosecution.
The defendant reported his wife missing to Garden Grove police, telling an investigator that they had gotten into an argument over $50, and she ran away.
During a later interview with a Riverside County sheriff's detective, Aguilar acknowledged that he had told Sandoval that he killed Contreras, but what not serious, according to Peuvrelle.
The witness intimidation charge stemmed from a note Aguilar left on Sandoval's car, advising him not to talk to police.