Testimony under way in trial of man accused of fatally stabbing estranged wife

Jesus Arteaga accused in Maribel Arteaga's death

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -  

Testimony got under way Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of fatally stabbing his estranged wife – who was pregnant with another man's child – in front of the couple's children in Chula Vista.

Jesus Arteaga Garcia, 31, is charged with two counts of murder and a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders in the Dec. 10, 2009, slaying of 28-year-old Maribel Arteaga, a Customs and Border Protection agent who was two months pregnant.

Garcia also faces child abuse counts because the slaying took place in front of the couple's 4- and 6-year-old sons. Prosecutors said the boys will take the stand and testify against their father. 

Testimony in the trial is being heard in the courtroom of Judge Ana Espana.

In an earlier hearing, a Chula Vista police officer testified he was first on the scene and recorded a conversation with the victim because he believed she would not survive. In the recording, which was played in court, she told Sgt. Carlos Valdivia that her estranged husband stabbed her in the back with a knife and that he was mad at her.

The victim's boyfriend, Carlos Orga, also a CBP agent, testified that on the day of the slaying, they were watching television when the defendant knocked on the door. Orga said he got up and went to his bedroom while the victim answered the door.

While in the bedroom, Orga heard a commotion and a bang, then the injured victim came into the bedroom with her children, saying the defendant stabbed her, he said.

In court on Wednesday, the defense attorney played a video that Maribel Arteaga sent her husband from Georgia while she was attending the academy to become a CPB agent. After watching a few seconds, the defendant looked away. 

His lawyer painted Maribel Arteaga as a cheating wife and said the stabbing was a crime of passion after he saw her with her new boyfriend. 

"He was overcome with emotion, confronted her, stabbed her, panicked and ran," attorney Juliana Humphrey told jurors.

Maribel Arteaga's sister told 10News that the defendant was physically and mentally abusive and the slaying was well-planned.

Authorities said the defendant fled to Mexico after the slaying. He was extradited to the United States in July 2011.

In order to ensure the extradition, U.S. authorities had to agree not to seek the death penalty. If convicted, Garcia faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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