Murder Suspect: Victim Asked Me to Clean Crime Scene

David Pena says estranged wife, stabbed by someone else, didn't want son to see her like that
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2018 8:11 AM CST
David Pena is accused of cleaning the crime scene with bleach.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Screams for help weren't Martha Mendiola's last words, per the California man accused of trying to kill her. Her estranged husband David Pena instead says she said to him: "I love you. Please don't let [my son] see me like this." That's the story Pena's defense attorney, David Mugridge, told in court Wednesday at his client's murder trial in Fresno as he tried to explain in opening statements why, after Mendiola was killed on November 29, 2016, Pena scrubbed the crime scene with bleach and drove around in her car with her tarp-covered body, per the Fresno Bee. The car and her body were eventually found by cops, and they were able to track down Pena by following pings from Mendiola's cellphone, which he had on him, KSFN reports. Pena's story, via his attorney, is that he found Mendiola in her garage with a knife in her back, possibly stabbed by an intruder.

Mugridge says Pena slid the knife out and held her, which is when she allegedly made her request for him to clean up the scene so her son Matthew wouldn't see it. Prosecutor Nathan Lambert tells a different story, noting Mendiola had booted Pena from the home just 10 days earlier, and that on the day of the murder, "she was beaten, hit in the face, she was bloody, her wedding ring ripped off her finger, she was stabbed in the back with a large knife, a knife that was so large it was able to pierce her lungs"—and that Pena was the one who did all of that. The prosecutor also says Pena didn't call 911, and that messages found on his cellphone accused Mendiola of having an affair. "He talked about an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," Lambert says, per the Bee. Pena could see at least 16 years behind bars if he's convicted. (Two ended up dead after a wife learned of her husband's alleged affair.)

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