SAN DIEGO -- An Imperial Beach man who was indicted, along with his girlfriend, in the stabbing death in Mexico of his wealthy Texas boyfriend will be held without bail because he is a flight risk, a federal judge ruled Monday.
David Enrique Meza, 25, is charged with interstate or foreign domestic violence resulting in murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
"This was a brutal murder," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Ciaffa told Magistrate Judge William Gallo during today's detention hearing.
Last May 2, Meza allegedly slashed the body of wealthy Texas retiree Jake Clyde Merendino on the side of the road between Rosarito and Ensenada, then pushed the 51-year-old victim down a ravine where he was left to die, the prosecutor told the judge.
Meza later told FBI agents that he only intended to rob Merendino and left the victim along the highway when he got cold feet, according to the prosecutor.
Meza and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Taylor Marie Langston, were arrested by FBI agents Dec. 23 at their home in the 700 block of Ninth Street. Langston is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a federal officer.
Ciaffa said Meza met Merendino online in 2013 and the two were involved romantically. At the same time, Meza was involved with Langston, who was eight months pregnant with his child at the time of the killing, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Merendino was killed a day after he closed escrow on a luxury oceanfront condominium in Baja California. Days after the killing, Meza produced a handwritten note that made him the sole heir to Merendino's estate, according to the indictment.
On May 1, the victim and Meza drove to Mexico, with Merendino driving his Range Rover and Meza following on a motorcycle, according to the affidavit.
The new condo wasn't ready to move into, so the couple checked in at Bobby's By the Sea hotel.
Merendino went to the lobby early that evening to open a bottle of wine and around 10:30 p.m., a motorcycle was heard leaving the hotel. Meza was seen crossing the international border at 11 p.m., according to the affidavit.
The victim was last seen alive at 1 a.m. May 2 when he told hotel staff he was going to help a friend who was stranded on the road.
Merendino's body was found shortly after 3 a.m. and Meza was allegedly seen crossing back into the U.S. just before 4 that morning, followed by Langston, who crossed into the U.S. 25 minutes later in a black SUV with no license plates.
Later that same day, Langston and Meza returned to the hotel to collect Meza's belongings. The victim's iPad was found during a search of the defendants' home last June, Ciaffa said.
After the slaying, a longtime friend of the victim, who drew up Merendino's 1998 will, filed probate paperwork in Galveston, Texas. On May 17, Meza contested the 1998 will and produced the handwritten note which named him as the sole heir to Merendino's estate, prosecutors said.
Ciaffa said that at the time of the murder, Meza was on probation for a 2013 case involving disorderly conduct and prostitution and a 2014 battery on Langston.
Meza's attorney, Deke Falls, told the judge that his client -- who has dual citizenship in Mexico and the United States -- was questioned by FBI agents last June but did not flee.
"He could have gone anywhere," the defense attorney said.
Falls said Meza did not confess to the murder and there are no eyewitnesses.
Meza and Langston are due back in court Jan. 22 for a motions and trial- setting hearing.