FULLERTON, Calif. – A man was sentenced today to 35 years to life in state prison for stabbing and murdering an acquaintance after chasing and stalking him before fleeing to Mexico. Mario Alberto Rodriguez, 27, Santa Ana, was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 2, 2016, of one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife. Rodriguez's prior serious felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance for sale for the benefit of a criminal street gang in 2012 in Orange County was also found true.
On March 9, 2013, Rodriguez saw 26-year-old acquaintance Paul Anthony Garcia in front of the defendant's family's home in Santa Ana, and chased him on foot. Rodriguez and two associates followed Garcia for a few blocks until he entered the El Chile Picante restaurant on South Main Street.
Rodriguez entered the restaurant and attempted to grab Garcia to lead him outside. Restaurant employees informed the defendant that the business had video surveillance and asked the defendant to leave the building. Rodriguez left the restaurant and waited near the exit to further pursue Garcia
The defendant chased Garcia across the street to a parking area behind a business after the victim exited the restaurant. Rodriguez punched Garcia and stabbed the victim once in the chest. The victim ran across Main Street and collapsed on the sidewalk where he died as a result of the stab wound.
Rodriguez subsequently fled to Mexico. The defendant returned to California several days later and fled to Mexico again after the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) released the restaurant's surveillance footage to the public in an effort to identify the defendant.
On June 19, 2013, Rodriguez was arrested by the Michoacán State Police in La Estanzuela, Michoacán, Mexico. He was then extradited back to Orange County to face trial. SAPD worked with the U.S. Marshals Service to secure his extradition.
At Rodriguez's sentencing today, the victim's mother, Bettie Gonzales, and grandmother, Roberta Vallejo, gave victim impact statements expressing the extreme anguish the killing caused them, ruining not only their lives but his own family. Vallejo also read a letter written by Garcia's 11-year-old daughter to the court.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.
Orange County District Attorney / Case # 13CF1954 / January 06, 2017