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Man gets 35 years to life for wife's shotgun slaying in City Heights

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Posted at 12:57 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 15:57:00-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who gunned down his wife with a shotgun near their City Heights home was sentenced Monday to 35 years to life in state prison.

Fernando Avila, 30, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and a firearm allegation for the Dec. 5, 2019, shooting of 29-year-old Julia Serrano, the mother of his two children.

Court documents indicate the couple had been married for nearly seven years, but that Serrano had filed for divorce shortly before she was killed.

During his sentencing hearing, Avila made a statement in which he apologized to Serrano's family "for putting you through so much pain" and their children "for taking their mom away from them."

Avila said, "If I could take back what I did, I would. But because I can't, I have to live with the pain and guilt of knowing what I did."

At Avila's preliminary hearing, a neighbor who lived near the couple on 46th Street testified that she and her husband were awakened at around 5:30 a.m. by a loud argument. The nature of the argument was unclear, but she said she heard a woman yell, "Stop, let me go!"

Avila then shot Serrano once outside their home. Police say they found an expended shotgun shell and blood on the side of the couple's vehicle, which was parked on the street just outside the residence.

After the first shot, the victim then ran to the corner of 46th Street and University Avenue, where she sat on the curb, according to testimony.

Surveillance footage captured from a nearby business showed Avila follow Serrano down the street, then shoot her a second time at point-blank range, according to prosecutors. In the footage, Avila is seen kneeling over the victim following the shot, leaving the scene briefly, then returning and kneeling down over the victim again.

Serrano died at the scene, and Avila was arrested soon after.

A San Diego police officer's body camera footage played at the preliminary hearing showed Avila handcuffed and placed into a patrol vehicle, crying, and repeatedly asking an officer whether his wife was all right.

The shotgun was located in the grass on the couple's front lawn, police said.

Divorce papers were found in the victim's purse inside the home, according to testimony.

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