A San Diego man was convicted of murdering his wealthy boyfriend by stabbing him 24 times and dumping him off a cliff, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
David Meza, 26, brought his boyfriend Jake Merendino, 51, to the side of a road in Mexico in 2015 and repeatedly stabbed him, gutted him, and slashed his neck, prosecutors said. The older man was then dropped off the side of a cliff.
Prosecutors argued that Meza killed his boyfriend in order to inherit about $3.27 million in property, including a $273,000 ocean condo that Merendino had just purchased the day before.
Meza and Merendino met in 2013 after Meza posted an online ad saying that he was straight but did “gay things” for money. The two began a relationship in which Meza received money and expensive gifts from Merendino.
But, unbeknownst to Merendino, Meza had a girlfriend, Taylor Langston, who would became his fiancée. He told his friends and family that he got his money as an accountant to rich clients like Merendino, who he called “George.”
“For two years he created lives in two separate worlds. Both were based on lies and deceit,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Ciaffa in court.
When Meza’s girlfriend got pregnant, and Merendino began hoping for Meza to move in with him, Meza began planning to kill Merendino to get his money and focus on his family.
On May 1, 2015, Meza and Merendino stayed in a Mexican hotel, and Meza left for the States on his motorcycle that night. He then called Merendino saying that his bike had broken down on the side of the road and he needed help.
Merendino left—and told a hotel security guard where he was going. His body was discovered that night.
Meza and Langston returned to Mexico to go through Meza’s things, and made up an alibi that they had been hanging out with a friend in Tijuana. But the friend told police he hadn’t seen the couple in a year and he had been instructed to lie to police, according to The New York Daily News.
When Meza talked to police, he at first allegedly denied being in Mexico the night of the killing. Then he claimed to police that he had been trying to steal Merendino’s stereo equipment when he lured his boyfriend out to the side of the road, but ended up not going through with it, the Union-Tribune said.
Defense argued that the evidence surrounding the case against Meza was all circumstantial. They also said that the supposed plan was full of holes and chances for Meza to get caught.
“This is not the way to commit a plan-in-advance murder,” said public defender Richard Deke Falls.
Meza’s conviction of foreign murder of a U.S. national and conspiracy to obstruct justice came on the second anniversary of Merendino’s death. Langston, who was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and making false statement for her role in the cover-up, pled guilty in February to obstruction.
Meza is now potentially facing life in prison.