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Jury finds man accused of killing ex-girlfriend’s fiancé guilty of murder

Jesse Alvarez court
Posted at 1:15 PM, Mar 11, 2024

After deliberations began Friday, a jury has found a man guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s fiancé.

Jesse Alvarez now faces a possible sentence of life in prison without a chance of parole for shooting and killing Mario Fierro in North Park on Feb. 1, 2021. He was convicted of first-degree murder in this case.

Fierro was a beloved teacher at Cathedral Catholic High School, and he was newly engaged to fellow Cathedral teacher Amy Gembara, Alvarez’s ex-girlfriend.

Prosecuting Attorney Ramona McCarthy said the two-week trial involved a lot of evidence and encouraged juries "to take their time and be thoughtful in their deliberations."

During the trial, prosecutors said the murder was premeditated, since Alvarez’s search history included troubling phrases such as “how to commit the perfect murder,” “how to shoot someone with a 9mm Glock” and “how to hire a hitman.” A crime analyst testified that those Google searches happened about five hours after the school posted a photo announcing the engagement on Facebook.

“As far as the evidence goes, the San Diego Police Department - team two homicide - did a fantastic job investigating this case," McCarthy said. "And, as a result, we did obtain a lot of evidence to help prove that the defendant did commit first-degree murder.”

During his testimony, Alvarez said he drove to Fierro’s apartment in the early hours of Feb. 1, 2021. Alvarez claimed he shot Fierro after Fierro started hitting him first.

When the prosecution cross-examined him, Alvarez admitted to shooting Fierro six times, including in the back, before leaving the scene.

The sentencing hearing was scheduled for May 10.

Alvarez's attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said the defense would have done nothing differently. He said it was right for Alvarez to tell his side of the story.

McCarthy said she had a conversation with Fierro's family members.

“I’m going to keep most of that conversation confidential," McCarthy said. But I can just say that closure feels good—at least as far as this part of the procedure goes. Nothing will bring Mr. Fierro back.”

This is a developing story. Stay with ABC 10News as our team of journalists gathers the latest information. Below, you’ll find an earlier version of this story as deliberations were underway.

On Monday, a jury continued to deliberate and decide whether or not Jesse Alvarez is guilty of murder.

Alvarez is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's fiancé, Mario Fierro, a beloved Cathedral Catholic high school teacher, three years ago in North Park.

The jury started deliberating Friday after hearing testimony from Alvarez last Wednesday and Thursday.

In his testimony, Alvarez claimed self-defense.

Alvarez also admitted he was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Amy Gembarra. He and his defense attorney, Kelly Armstrong, blamed his obsession with Gembarra on his undiagnosed autism and obsessive compulsive disorders. Armstrong said his client is "very autistic."
But despite his mental state, the prosecutors held their ground in an explosive cross-examination with Alvarez.

"I just want to be very clear. You're the one who killed Mr. Fierro, right?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, I've testified to that," Alvarez replied.

"You put six bullets in his body, correct?" the prosecutor pressed on.

"Yes, I understand that," Alvarez replied.

When the prosecutor asked if Alvarez had shot Fierro twice in the forehead, back of head and his back, Alvarez again replied yes.

Prosecutors said the killing of Fierro was premeditated after Alvarez saw a Facebook post by the school announcing Gembarra's engagement to Fierro.

A crime analyst testified that before the shooting, Alvarez's Google search history included phrases like "how to commit the perfect murder" and "how to shoot someone with a 9mm Glock."
Still, Alvarez claims self-defense. Armstrong said Alvarez was camped outside of the former teacher's home but wasn't planning to shoot him. Armstrong argued that Fierro started hitting Alvarez first.

The defense also called a forensic psychologist to the stand, who evaluated Alvarez following his arrest and confirmed she diagnosed him with both Autism Spectrum Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

If convicted, Alvarez faces life in prison without a chance of parole.

Jury deliberations were still ongoing as of 1 p.m. Monday.