Whittier man sentenced for brutal 2001 murder

SANTA ANA — A Whittier man who spent seven years as a fugitive after stabbing and slashing the throat of his girlfriend and running over her body with a truck received a sentence of 26 years to life in prison Friday for the murder, authorities said.
An Orange County jury convicted Ruben Retana Perez, 34, in August of the murder of 26-year-old Rocio Leon, along with the special allegation that he personally used a weapon in the killing, Orange County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Farrah Emami said in a written statement.
The two had been involved in an “on and off romantic relationship” for about five years leading up to the April 18, 2001, slaying, Emami said. The couple had a son together. However, in the final two years of their relationship, Perez became abusive toward both Leon and her child from a previous relationship.
In the early morning hours of April 18, 2001, Perez drove Leon in her truck to her job in Garden Grove, investigators said.
“While driving to Leon’s work, Perez got out of the car and murdered Leon by slitting the victim’s throat using a kitchen knife and stabbing her two times in the chest,” Emami said. “The defendant then got back into the car and ran over Leon’s body before fleeing the scene.”
Perez went to his own employer later in the morning and asked for $1,000 pay advance, then disappeared, officials said. Further investigation led to a warrant for his arrest in December of 2002.
A break in the case came on July 19, 2008, when Perez was arrested in Arkansas, where he had been living under an assumed name, on suspicion of drunken driving, according to Emami. Investigators soon realized Perez’s true identity and he was extradited back to Orange County to face trial.
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