David Ernesto Murillo, 29, pleaded guilty to over 30 felony charges Wednesday afternoon, including three counts of first-degree murder for the killing of Nogales Police Officer Jesus Cordova in April 2018.
Sitting in the courtroom with his wrists handcuffed in front of his lap while surrounded by several law enforcement officers, Murillo quietly listened as his defense attorney Laura Udall informed the judge of her client’s latest decision moving forward with the case.
“(Murillo is) prepared to enter a plea to every count in the indictment with the stipulation that the death penalty be ruled out,” Udall said.
Earlier this year in February, prosecutor Liliana Ortega of the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office submitted their notice to seek the death penalty in Murillo’s case, which was initially expected to go through a trial by jury.
Following Murillo’s guilty plea, the case will head straight to the sentencing hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 2 p.m.
“By virtue of your guilty plea to those counts, if I accept your plea, you will be sentenced on each count to a term of natural life in prison. That means you will serve the rest of your life in prison,” Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink said in reference to the three counts of first-degree murder.
Fink then proceeded to make his way down the list of a total of 39 charges against Murillo, explaining the sentencing possibilities for each count.
Some of the other charges against Murillo also include attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping and armed robbery.
The set of charges traces back to April 27, 2018, when Murillo went on a crime spree that began with the attempted robbery of a taxi driver, followed by at least five carjackings or attempted carjackings. He later opened fire with an AR-15, killing 44-year-old Cordova when the officer tried to pull him over near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Mesa Verde Drive.
Several local law enforcement agencies — including NPD, U.S. Border Patrol, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection — then pursued Murillo through town, eventually surrounding and arresting him at the Mariposa Manor Trailer Park.
Members of the audience sitting behind Ortega, including NPD Chief Roy Bermudez, listened in silence as Murillo repeatedly stated, “Guilty, your honor,” to each of the counts on the indictment.
“Some victims are present, not all of them, but none of them wish to speak to the court at this time,” Ortega said before the judge. “They will reserve their comments for sentencing.”
The plea agreement document, signed by Murillo, Udall and Ortega, confirmed that prosecutors in the case withdrew their notice to seek the death penalty for Murillo.