MURRIETA – A Perris man who knifed a dog owner to death and later fatally stabbed a mother and daughter without provocation was convicted Wednesday of three counts of first-degree murder.
After deliberating less than a day, a Murrieta jury found 28-year-old David Rey Contreras guilty of killing 53-year-old Jose Apreza, as well as 51-
year-old Maria Gonzalez and her 25-year-old daughter, Consuelo “Connie” Gonzalez, four years ago.
In addition to the murder counts, jurors found true a special circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders, setting the stage for Contreras’ penalty trial, which Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Monterosso scheduled to begin Tuesday at the Southwest Justice Center.
The defendant is being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center.
According to Deputy District Attorney Dan DeLimon, there was no readily identifiable motive behind the deadly attacks, which appeared to be random acts
The first fatal assault occurred Dec. 29, 2012, in the area of Evans Road and Orange Avenue in Perris. The victim, Apreza, had gone out that morning to walk his pit bull and was reported missing by his wife when he didn’t return within a few hours, sheriff’s investigators said.
One of the deputies dispatched to search for the missing man spotted a body in an open field — later confirmed to be Apreza’s — with a dog standing
nearby. When the deputy approached, the pit bull lunged at him, prompting the lawman to shoot and kill the animal.
Coroner’s officials later confirmed that the victim had been stabbed multiple times in the body, back and thighs. Investigators surmised that his canine was roaming around when the stabbing occurred.
On the evening of Feb. 4, 2013, Maria Gonzalez and her daughter left their Nuevo home to take a stroll along Central Avenue and a short time later were confronted by a man, who attacked them both with a knife, according to investigators. Deputies arrived within minutes and found the victims lying on a sidewalk between Ramona and Rosary avenues.
Connie Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the scene. Her mother was transported to Menifee Valley Medical Center, where she died less than an hour later.
Witnesses reported seeing a young man in dark clothing fleeing the area and provided specific identifying details — including the fact that the perpetrator was wearing a back brace similar to what a construction worker might use — that proved pivotal to the investigation, according to DeLimon.
A week later, a deputy parked on Central saw an individual walking toward him, matching the assailant’s description and wearing a brace. He detained the man, Contreras, without incident.
The defendant was arrested for carrying a concealed knife, which he’d hidden inside the brace. A dog leash was also found in his possession that allegedly belonged to Apreza, according to the prosecution.
Contreras was jailed on a felony weapon allegation and spent several months behind bars until his attorney offered a plea deal directly to the court, resulting in a sentence of probation.
According to the prosecution, during and after the time the defendant was in custody, DNA tests were conducted on his shoes and the leash, which allegedly contained blood stains. The time-consuming process was eventually completed, resulting in sufficient evidence to warrant murder charges, and Contreras was re-arrested without incident Aug. 7, 2013.