Escondido murders
Veronica Soto Ortega (L) and Ana Soto. Photo via findagrave.com

A man who killed his estranged wife and her sister in Escondido was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and other charges.

Juan Carlos Ortega, 38, is expected to be sentenced next month to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the August 2018 deaths of 30-year-old Veronica Soto Ortega and 26-year-old Ana Soto. Both victims’ bodies were discovered miles apart from each other on Aug. 9, 2018.

Prosecutors allege Ortega killed the women at his wife’s apartment because she filed for divorce.

At trial, Ortega’s defense attorney did not deny that his client killed the women, but alleged he did so in self-defense after Soto put a knife to his throat, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Firefighters first found Soto’s body inside a burning SUV near Country Club and Kauana Loa drives. Prosecutors said she had been shot and the SUV was registered to her sister.

Ortega’s wife was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death at her apartment on West 11th Avenue, a few miles away from the site of the burning vehicle. Ortega’s two children, then ages 4 and 5, were found unharmed in the apartment.

Ortega was arrested later that day at his workplace in Carlsbad.

Along with two first-degree murder counts, Ortega was convicted of an arson count, two child endangerment counts, and a special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait.

City News Service contributed to this article.


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Ellen Bullock