A 46-year-old suspect in the death of his ex-girlfriend found stabbed and shot at a San Jose motel nearly three years ago was arraigned Wednesday.
Julio Pliego appeared at the Hall of Justice in San Jose where he was arraigned for murdering Veronica Lozano, 35, who was found dead at a Holiday Inn Express on May 15, 2013.
"The crime scene photos are extremely graphic. It was a very gory crime scene," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Katrina Ohde said outside court.
Pliego wore a red jail uniform and received help from a Spanish translator during Wednesday's hearing before Superior Court Judge Shelyna Brown, who scheduled his next court appearance for Tuesday.
He remains in custody without bail and didn't enter a plea this afternoon.
Pliego is also facing special circumstance allegations of committing torture during the course of a murder, discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury or death and using a knife during the commission of a crime, Ohde said.
If convicted, the 46-year-old faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Ohde.
Pliego suffers from a medical condition that has placed him in a wheelchair. The suspect and victim were at one point in a relationship but broke up months before she died, Ohde said.
Lozano was a hairstylist and had four children between the ages of 5 and 17, who she dropped off at school during the morning before she died, according to Ohde.
She was stabbed about 40 times and shot in the head at close range, prosecutors said.
An autopsy showed Lozano was killed with a knife and firearm, according to a statement of facts by San Jose police on the case that was unsealed Wednesday.
Lozano's current boyfriend called police shortly before noon on May 15, 2013 to report that she may have been injured, police said.
The boyfriend tried to reach Lozano on her cellphone and soon after received a call back from Pliego, who allegedly made multiple threats to the man and his family, police said.
Pliego allegedly sent a text message to the current boyfriend with a photo of a woman, who appeared naked and bleeding, according to police.
The boyfriend was able to identify the person in the image as Lozano based on a tattoo on her lower back and begged Pliego to take her to the hospital, but the defendant said "it was too late," police said.
The boyfriend recognized the voice as Pliego, who had been stalking Lozano, according to police.
Shortly before 1:30 p.m. that day, an employee at a Holiday Inn Express at 2660 Monterey Road in San Jose called police to report a naked woman was in a room and officers determined was the same person in the picture sent via text, police said.
The room was rented under Pliego's name through the next day, according to police.
Officers tracked down Pliego's address to Roundtable Drive where they contacted a woman who said she knew the suspect, police said.
The woman informed the officers that she had been dating Pliego for the past 11 years and he temporarily lived at her home, police said.
During an interview at police headquarters, the woman told investigators that Pliego spoke with her around noon and said he did "something very bad" near Chavez Supermarket on Monterey Road, according to police.
The woman saw a large police presence outside the Holiday Inn Express and suspected Pliego killed a female he had been complaining about for months, police said.
The woman, who didn't know Lozano, confirmed Pliego's cellphone number and stated that he planned to leave on a flight for Mexico, according to police.
While being interviewed by investigators, the woman got a phone call from a Mexican number and answered to hear Pliego, who told her that he landed in Mexico and loved her, police said.
Pliego was arrested by the FBI near Mexico City, Mexico late last year and arrived Tuesday night in Santa Clara County after a months-long extradition process, Ohde said.
"If the defendant thought he was going to live happily ever after in Mexico after committing a savage and senseless crime, then the FBI and these charges have proved him wrong," Ohde said in a statement released Wednesday. "We look forward to holding him fully accountable for the murder of Veronica Lozano."