Felipa Manriquez misses her sister’s kind heart.
In fact, Ignacia Manriquez always went out of her way to help and show warmth to others, even the man now convicted of killing her, Felipa said.
“My sister, Ignacia Manriquez, because of her violent, brutal murder, will never witness her children's and grandchildren's special moments and accomplishments as they grow into adulthood,” Felipa told a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge.
The fact that the father of her three children was convicted of her murder only deepens the tragedy, said Margaret Bevan, the San Bernardino County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.
“The children lost their mother and their father,” she said.
On Jan. 10, a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge sentenced 46-year-old Juan Manuel Navarro to 30 years to life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend.
Prosecutors say Navarro was in a jealous rage Feb. 14, 1993 when he put a gun to Ignacia’s head and fired as they stood in the parking lot of Loma Linda Univesity Medical Center’s emergency room.
The shooting took place in front of their 4-year-old son.
Navarro destroyed three families that day and touched off a manhunt that went on for nearly two decades and spanned the Inland Empire and Mexico, where he fled, Bevan said. The shooting was the culmination of a day spent stalking Manriquez and her family as they went about their business, she said
Navarro had broken off the relationship, only to change his mind in the months leading up to the shooting, Bevan said. That fateful day, Navarro decided to stalk her as she visited family in Highland, Manriquez, she said.
“He shows up at 8 a.m. in the morning at the house,” Bevan said. “One of the kids allows him to come in because it’s dad. They start to argue. She pulls out a restraining order. He says ‘No piece of paper is going to keep me from you.’ ”
Prosecutors said he followed them to a swap meet in San Bernardino. And in an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come, Bevan said Navarro spoke to a friend by phone who asked “Hey where are you? We’re having a St. Valentines Day Party.”
“(Navarro) tells the friend, ‘The party is over.’ And that’s the last his friend ... they hear from him,” Bevan said.
Navarro’s rage bubbled over in the emergency room parking lot, officials said.
Witness Bradford Montgomery testified he saw the couple arguing near her vehicle. He sees her crying, Bevan said. Then he saw Navarro point the gun to her head and shoot her.
She was shot at point blank range, officials said. As she’s falling to the ground she is shot again in her stomach. On the ground, she was shot on the other side of her head, according to officials.
Navarro then grabbed 4-year-old Juanito and fled. Someone anonymously dropped the child off at the home of a relative 17 days later.
When he was interviewed, the toddler told authorities what happened telling them, “Ketchup is everywhere.”
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies tracked Navarro to Mexico. But were unable to pin down his location for years.
“Felipa and her father, Antonio Manriquez, turned over every stone,” Bevan said. “They went down to Mexico almost every other weekend to hunt him down. That just shows the perseverance that this family has and the need for justice.”
Antonio also testified before Congress, appealing to the governments to work together to find and extradite Navarro, Bevan said. In September 2010, Navarro was returned, leaving behind a second wife and children in Mexico. His crimes ripped apart yet another family, Bevan said.
Navarro must serve 16 years and 8 months of the 30-year sentence before he becomes eligible for parole, authorities said.
Family, on both sides, continues to suffer, officials said. Navarro’s children are in a prison of their own, Felipa said.
“Juanito Manriquez, he has suffered and will continue to carry the burden of what he witnessed,” Felipa said. “His mental state is not of a 22-year-old. He is very insecure and unstable. He suffers from anxiety. He did not finish high school no matter how much his grandparents and family insisted and persuaded for him to continue his education. He just didn’t seem to see beyond (the shooting). I know for a fact, just like any other child, he needed the guidance and love of his mother. Things would have been very different if she was alive. He feels very lonely and not loved. … We have also suggested counseling for him, but doesn’t feel nor see the need for it. … Not sure of what the future holds for him. We all worry about him daily and pray for God to guide him and protect him.”