|For Immediate Release
March 13, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
BOYFRIEND SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS TO LIFE FOR MURDERING GIRLFRIEND AND SETTING BODY
ON FIRE TO DESTROY EVIDENCE
SANTA ANA – A boyfriend was sentenced today to 25 years to life in state prison for murdering his girlfriend and attempting to destroy her corpse by setting it on fire in a backyard metal trash can. Jose Sauceda-Contreras, 31, Anaheim, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 26, 2008, of one felony count of murder.
On Jan. 10, 2007, Sauceda-Contreras suffocated and murdered his girlfriend, 35-year-old Martha Mendoza. At approximately 11:30 a.m., Sauceda-Contreras placed Mendoza’s body in a metal trash can in his backyard, poured gasoline over the victim, and lit the body on fire to destroy the evidence of his crime.
A neighbor called 9-1-1 after smelling an unusual burning odor and seeing Sauceda-Contreras over his backyard fence. When the Anaheim Fire Department arrived, Sauceda-Contreras insisted that the firefighters leave and physically resisted as they attempted to enter Sauceda-Contreras’ backyard to search for the origins and source of the fire. Firefighters discovered the victim’s body in the trashcan and contacted the Anaheim Police Department. The defendant told police officers that he had discovered his girlfriend dead that morning and decided to burn her body because she had previously told him that she wanted him to keep her ashes if she died.
During the sentencing today, the victim’s sister said that Sauceda-Contreras is responsible for damaging her family by leaving a hole in their hearts, and that her sister’s death has left her with a constant feeling of emptiness.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.