Although George Mora was stabbed multiple times, it was large, gaping wound to the left breast area that pierced his heart and killed him, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigator.
Day one of the preliminary hearing for Socorro Mora, the 41-year-old estranged wife who is accused of murdering George, got underway Wednesday in Pomona Superior Court and included both emotional testimony from family members and details from the Sheriff’s Department about the crime scene. Testimony is expected to continue today.
Deputy District Attorney Tanareh Saba called six witnesses.
Kathryn Hernandez, a longtime co-worker of George Mora’s, took the stand early, as did Melissa Bugarin, Socorro’s sister. Both women testified that George Mora had shared with them threatening text messages he had received from the defendant, including one in which Socorro Mora threatened to cut off the defendant’s private parts with a knife.
Bugarin sobbed as she testified about what she described as her sister’s manic episodes. Socorro Mora also wept while her sister was on the witness stand.
“She was always nice and happy,” said Bugarin, who also said they were close growing up. “It was just when she was manic that she became very angry.”
Bugarin also testified about the family dog Snowflake, who was found dead of a stab wound in the backyard flowerbed of the Walnut home in September 2011. Mora also is facing a charge of killing the dog.
The witness said she warned the Sheriff’s deputies at that time about her sister, which the family calls Soco.
“I told them ‘you need to ask her some questions and do an interrogation or you’re going to be back to witness a tragedy,’ ” she said. “They didn’t listen to me.”
Socorro Mora was arrested in October 2011 and charged with murdering her estranged husband George at his home in the 21600 block of Brookside Court. The father of four was found dead from multiple stab wounds on Oct. 19 minutes after Socorro Mora called the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to report a domestic disturbance at the Walnut home.
Miguel Mora, George’s brother, testified about the last time he saw George, which was the Friday before he died. He also spoke to his brother the night before he was killed.
“He was in really bad shape,” Miguel said of George. “He looked defeated. He was just sad. He was exhausted. He was just worried.”
Both Miguel and another brother, John Mora, testified that the victim was a calm person and said they had never witnessed George strike Socorro.
Defense attorney Patricia O’Bryan tried countering that testimony by asking the brothers about the defendant filing for divorce around August 2011 and getting a restraining order against George.
The brothers testified that George had a restraining order that required the defendant to stay away from him and the couple’s four minor children.
The most emotional testimony of the day came when one of the couple’s four minor children took the stand. As the young boy was escorted into court, he turned his eyes toward the wall of the courtroom away from his mother and avoided looking at her while on the stand.
He described an argument between his mom and dad in which the defendant allegedly hit the victim several times while she screamed, “help, help.” He also recounted an incident when his mother tried to get him to leave his school with her even though there was a restraining order in place.
Sgt. Robert Martindale, a homicide investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department testified last. He painted a picture of what deputies and investigators found when they arrived on the scene.
Out front to the right of the house was a concrete bench heavily covered in blood, a cordless AT&T phone headset, female clothing belonging to Socorro Mora and blood stained Ugg boots, he said. Also found was a lone blood-soaked gardening glove and a filet knife, Martindale said. Medical supplies had also been left behind likely from when Socorro Mora was treated for multiple stab wounds before being transported to a hospital.
A trail of blood went from the bench to the house, he said. Inside, George Mora was found in the kitchen. He had been turned over on his back by the paramedics, but photos of the scene before the Los Angeles County Fire Department arrived showed the victim lying on his stomach, Martindale said. A large, bent kitchen knife was laid across his wrist, Martindale said, adding that the victim was not gripping it. A larger knife was on the floor near the victim’s torso, he said.
The victim had 17 or 18 surface stab wounds, including two large defensive ones to the back of his left arm and multiple poke marks. He said from the scene, it appeared that George was stabbed and hit the ground face first.
“There was no indication of a struggle or what I call ground fighting,” he said.
Martindale also testified that the home had been entered by force. The French doors of the dining room area had been pried open and the glass broken, he said.
“It was obvious the doors had been breached and broken open,” he said.
A blood-stained journal belonging to Socorro Mora was on the floor inside.
In the backyard, a second gardening glove that matched the one found in the front yard was on the ground, as were several tools.
Defense attorney O’Bryan asked if any fingerprints were taken from the glass, door or tools. Martindale said they were tested, but no fingerprints found.
Hanging up in the backyard was a trench coat Martindale said that appeared to belong to the defendant. In the pocket was Socorro Mora’s cell phone, a dog tag with the name Snowflake, around $22, and keys to the Ford Expedition she had parked at a TJ Maxx about a quarter mile away from the home, he said.