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Coachella man sentenced to life without parole for killing ex-girlfriend

carlos mendoza
Carlos Mendoza

A Coachella man who repeatedly stabbed his 31-year-old ex-girlfriend outside her home after she broke up with him was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Carlos Antonio Mendoza, 41, was convicted in March of first-degree murder for the March 20, 2016, killing of Cecilia Silva. Jurors also found true a special circumstances allegation of lying in wait.

In handing down the life sentence -- the district attorney previously opted not to pursue the death penalty -- Riverside County Superior Court Judge Otis Sterling called the murder calculated, heartless and cowardly.

"This was a situation in which he was calculated. It was cold, and his choices and his conduct in committing this act was completely heartless and undeterred." Sterling said. "I can't think of a more cowardly way that somebody can commit a crime like this.''

Nearly two dozen of the victim's friends and family members attended the sentencing hearing, with one of Silva's siblings saying her death "ended all of our lives."

Silva was stabbed more than 30 times. She was found lying face down in a pool of her own blood next to her running car on March 20, 2016, in the driveway of her home in the 52700 block of Calle Empalme, according to Riverside County sheriff's Investigator Daniel Moody.

A friend of the victim told investigators that Silva and Mendoza had been dating, and Silva said he was controlling and "suffocating her."

According to prosecutors, Mendoza told investigators that during the murder, it was as if he was "watching an animal" kill Silva, and that he was "powerless to stop it.''

Sheriff's Investigator Sean Freeman testified during Mendoza's preliminary hearing that the defendant said he waited for Silva to return home from work, then donned all-dark clothing, including a mask patterned after the comic book character "Bane," and stabbed her with a "large Bowie knife.''

According to Freeman, the defendant admitted he threw the knife into a La Quinta canal, where it was later recovered by investigators Mendoza then attempted to check himself into an Indio mental health clinic, "but was sent away because it was at capacity," according to court documents.

A friend then took him to another facility for treatment. Mendoza's attorney previously called into question his client's competency, prompting a judge to order him to undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he could assist in his own defense. Mendoza's lawyer reiterated at sentencing that his client suffers from severe depression, but Sterling refused to take the claim into account.

"There are no mental health issues here affecting Mr. Mendoza,"
Sterling said. "He made his choices.''

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