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Temecula Man Admits To Strangling Girlfriend, 22, In 2005

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

MURRIETA (CBS) — Authorities say that a Temecula man admitted Friday that he strangled his 22-year-old former girlfriend in 2005 as part of a plea deal that allows him to avoid the death penalty.

Gustavo Santiago Valencia Miranda, 24, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and admitted a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait in the October 2005 slaying of Maria Ines Lopez.

Her body was found in a dry creek bed.

Miranda changed his plea after reaching an agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, which agreed to drop its pursuit of capital punishment in return for his cooperation.

Superior Court Judge Albert Wojcik immediately sentenced Miranda to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to prosecutors, Miranda killed Lopez a few months after she broke up with him. The victim was in her final year at Cal State Dominguez Hills at the time and living with her parents in Long Beach.

On the day of the murder, Miranda asked to meet Lopez, and the two went for a stroll along a creek bed near Avenida de Missiones and state Route 79 in Temecula. During the walk, the defendant attacked her, binding her hands and strangling her with a yellow cord, according to prosecutors.

Her body was discovered two days later buried beneath three feet of soil.

 (©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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