Tony Perez, 35, a former chef at the Santa Monica’s Spitfire Grill, will stand trial for allegedly killing a beachside waitress, Cori Daye Desmond, nearly a year ago. Perez previously admitted that he strangled Desmond but has changed his story three times since.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Annemarie Pace ruled st a preliminary hearing that there is enough evidence for Perez to stand trial for one count of murder.
Desmond’s body was found in the San Bernardino Mountains on February 16 2009, when a motorist had pulled off Highway 330 in Running Spring. Her body was partly concealed in a black trash bag and had extensive bruising on her face and neck. Prosecutors allege that Perez killed the 28-year-old Desmond in front of his Redondo Beach apartment in the early morning hours of February 15.
Perez’s final account to detectives in the morning after his arrest attested that he got home at 1:30 a.m. from his job and fell asleep in his SUV parked along the curb. After awaking around 3:30 a.m. he found Desmond passed out at the foot of a nearby apartment’s driveway.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s Detective Trevis Newport said that Perez attested that when he shook her, she awoke screaming for him to “get away.
Newport testified that Perez got scared and tried to hold her down. Desmond who had no relationship to Perez, allegedly fought back, struck Perez in the face, prompting him to tighten his grip over her mouth. Newport said that Perez continued to squeeze her neck until she stopped breathing.
A motorist who had pulled off Highway 330 in Running Springs found Desmond’s body concealed in a black trash bag next day. Perez insists he did not kill Desmond but instead found the 28-year-old’s body and decided to dispose of it in the mountains.
Close to 700 people attended the funeral for the energetic young woman. Desmond worked at a Manhattan Beach restaurant while seeking a teaching credential.
At the end of the preliminary hearing, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Annemarie Pace found there was enough evidence to order Perez to stand trial for murder.
Perez is due in court for arraignment on February 4 and faces one count of murder.