Long Prairie man guilty of murder
A Todd County jury found a Long Prairie man guilty of intentional second-degree murder of his girlfriend, Dominga Mejia Guerrero.
The jury verdict on Nov. 30 showed they didn't believe Jose Raul Herrera-Torres's claim that he acted in self-defense when Guerrero was stabbed to death on July 27 in the couple's home at 451 Todd St. S. in Long Prairie.
Her body was found about 8 p.m. that night by another person who lived at the residence and called police.
The prosecution maintained that Guerrero's relationship with Herrera-Torres was crumbling and after several fights and arguments, she was looking for a new place to live.
According to coverage over the three-day trial by Jason C. Brown, publisher/editor of the Long Prairie Leader, medical examiner Dr. Rebecca Asch-Kendrick testified that she documented five wounds to Guerrero's face and neck area. Three of them were deep stab wounds, including one into the chest.
Three stab wounds perforated her small intestine and went deep into her lumbar area. However, she could not tell the court which wound ended Guerrero's life.
When Herrera-Torres took the stand, he maintained that Guerrero initiated a fight that eventually led to her bleeding out on the living room floor. He said that on the night she died, she accused him of cheating on her because she noticed his lip was bleeding. Herrera said he had nicked his lip while shaving.
After that, Herrera said, Guerrero became aggressive and started to hit him. He said she also came at him "swinging with the knife." Herrera-Torres told the court he put up his arms to protect his head, which caused the cuts to his forearms that authorities had mentioned earlier in the trial.
Herrera-Torres said that while they were struggling for the knife, he stumbled over her, they went down together and the knife went inside her stomach.
Herrera-Torres said the fight continued as both of them fought for the knife. "I was fighting for my life," he said.
Upon cross-examination the prosecution grilled Herrera-Torres about the dispute. They asked about him calling her names and goading her to use the knife.
"Did you think that was going to calm the situation?" asked prosecutor David Miller.
"No," Herrera-Torres replied.
"And, you had the knife in your control?"
"This was a woman you professed to love just hours earlier?"
"And your wound just got stitches?"
Without any further questioning, Herrera-Torres was excused from the witness stand, but not before he said, "I'm sorry guys" in Spanish to Guerrero's family in the courtroom.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the second degree, which contends that a person caused the death of someone else but without premeditation.
"The victims of this murder and the state are pleased with the jury's verdict. I know the victims expressed their gratitude to law enforcement and the Attorney General's Office for their dedication and the hard work they put into this tragic case," said Todd County Attorney Chuck Rasmussen.
Sentencing for Herrera-Torres is scheduled for Jan. 24.