Man accused of killing estranged wife in front of children pleads not guilty to murder charges

CHULA VISTA (CNS) – A man extradited from Mexico to face charges that he fatally stabbed his pregnant estranged wife — a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent — in front of her 4- and 6-year-old children in Chula Vista pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and child abuse counts.

Jesus Arteaga Garcia, 29, was ordered held without bail by South Bay Judge Garry Haehnle, who set an Aug. 31 preliminary hearing date.

The defendant, who is charged in the Dec. 9, 2009, slaying of Maribel Arteaga, was extradited to the United States on Wednesday. He was arrested in Tijuana on Jan. 28.

Arteaga Garcia faces a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of two counts of murder — one for his estranged wife and one for the unborn fetus — and two counts of felony child abuse, with special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and multiple murders.

In order to ensure the defendant's extradition, authorities in the United States had to agree not to seek the death penalty, said Deputy District Attorney Enrique Camarena.

The prosecutor told reporters that the defendant and the 28-year-old victim were separated at the time of her death, and he had filed for divorce. The victim worked at the Tecate Port of Entry.

Arteaga Garcia showed up unannounced at his estranged wife's apartment the day of the murder and allegedly stabbed her during an argument after she opened the door, Camarena said.

Maribel Arteaga — who was two months pregnant — identified her estranged husband as the assailant before she died and witnesses told authorities that he frequented Mexico and had family there, the prosecutor said.

Arteaga Garcia was sheltered by his sister and parents in Northern Baja California until his arrest six months ago, authorities said.

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