A 66-year-old man was found guilty today of first-degree murder for fatally stabbing his girlfriend during a frenzied attack in Palm Springs that was ignited when she told him their relationship was finished.
Along with the murder count, a Riverside jury convicted Miguel Hernandez Toscano of child cruelty and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony for the 2022 slaying of 48-year-old Ernestina Oropeza.
The jury deliberated only one day before returning with the verdicts. Trial testimony concluded on Thursday, after which the prosecution and defense delivered closing statements at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jason Armand gave jurors Friday off, and they returned to the downtown courthouse Monday morning, notifying the court by lunch time that they had reached a unanimous decision.
The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 19. Toscano is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According a trial brief filed by the prosecution, the defendant and Oropeza were employed at a Coachella Valley casino and became romantically involved after meeting on the job. The roughly five-month-long relationship turned rocky in February 2022 when Toscano discovered the victim had been communicating with another man, whom she described as a friend.
On March 1, Toscano, Oropeza and her three daughters, ages 9, 7 and 4, went to dinner at a friend's house in Desert Hot Springs, but during the drive there and the return trip to Oropeza's apartment at 1799 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, she and the defendant argued about her interest in the other man, whose identity was not disclosed in court papers.
Before leaving the apartment, Toscano offered to retrieve his girlfriend's children from school the following day as a favor, but Oropeza declined the offer and replied she "no longer wanted to be with the defendant," according to the brief.
The victim then exited the apartment to check something in her backyard, and Toscano grabbed a kitchen knife from a table and proceeded to follow her.
In an interview with detectives later, Toscano described what was in his mind, saying, "If I can't have her, then I don't want anyone else to have her," according to the brief.
"The defendant stated that ... his jealousy was overwhelming,'' the document stated.
Oropeza's daughters and their grandmother were together in a room, watching television, when the victim began shrieking. The eldest child, not identified in court papers, told detectives that she witnessed Toscano plunging the kitchen knife into her mother and yelled at him and threw rocks in an attempt to divert him from the deadly assault, but it was to no avail.
The children and their grandmother fled the apartment for their own safety.
A neighbor called 911, and police officers arrived minutes later, discovering Oropeza "motionless, eyes glazed over, copious amounts of blood on the ground'' around her, the brief said. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Toscano was nowhere in sight.
However, the next morning he went to the Palm Springs Police Station and surrendered, admitting his culpability, telling an investigator in Spanish, "I made a big mistake. I came to face the consequences," according to the brief.
Toscano had no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.