On September 1, 2022, a jury found the defendant, Elmer Ugarte, guilty of second-degree murder for the death of his wife, Maria “Lupe” Hernandez. A jury also found the defendant guilty of child endangerment.
The defendant and Maria Hernandez were married for 14 years and had two children (11 and 13 years old). During the course of their marriage, the defendant physically abused the victim multiple times. On at least two occasions, the defendant abused the victim in front of their children. Additionally, the defendant consistently abused alcohol. In 2020, the defendant and the victim’s marriage had deteriorated and both had contemplated and discussed divorce. The defendant was also planning to leave his family and move to Arizona with his girlfriend and his mother.
On February 4, 2020, the defendant began sending the victim threatening text messages and a phone call. Fearing for her daughter’s safety, she told her daughter to pack her belongings and she would come get her so they could leave.
As the victim pulled up to their Hayward home, at the exact same time the defendant sent a text message to his mother saying: “Bye mom, I am going to jail now for killing Lupe, ok, whatever, I’m an asshole.”
Once the victim was inside the house, the defendant called her into the master bedroom. Scared and reluctant, she went in. As the master bedroom door closed, within seconds the victim began screaming. When the master bedroom door opened, the 11-year-old Jane Doe saw her dad holding her mom by her shirt while he stabbed her multiple times in the chest with a big knife. She even grabbed a pair of black boots and thew it at the defendant’s head to get him to stop. But the defendant continued his violent attack on the victim.
The victim screamed to call 911. While the 11-year-old Jane Doe did and was on the phone with dispatch, the defendant completed his attack. He stood up, went to the sink and washed his hands and the knife, leaving it in the sink. He then fled.
Jane Doe stayed inside the house alone with her mom until the police arrived. The victim was pronounced deceased at the time of police arrival.
The defendant was arrested about two hours later in Mountain View. Seven hours after the homicide, his blood alcohol level was at 0.15%.
The defendant is expected to be sentenced on November 4, 2022 and faces 17 years to life in state prison.
DDA Allyson Donovan prosecuted the case, with the assistance of Inspectors Nicole Elder and Shan Johnson, Victim Witness Advocate Kelli Sage, and college intern Audrey Edel.