On December 12, 2014, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that retired border patrol agent Nerio Celaya, 44, of Calexico, California has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the killing and torture of his cousin’s 29-year-old girlfriend, Lupe Fernandez, in 2010.
Celaya was found guilty of one count each of first degree murder and torture. Special circumstance allegation of torture was specifically investigated by the jury and found to be true. Celaya’s cousin, Louie Alex Mendoza, 38, of Sylmar, was also found guilty of murder and torture and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
According to the government’s evidence presented at the trial, Mendoza was dating the victim and suspected her of stealing from him. On Jan. 12, 2010, Mendoza and Celaya attacked the woman, held her down, tortured and beat her to death. The attack took place at the tattoo shop managed by Celaya – Painful Pleasures of Arleta, California. Mendoza and Celaya knocked out the victim’s teeth, fracturing her skull and causing multiple facial lacerations. After the victim was beaten to death, both attackers hog-tied her with duct tape and dumped her body in a trash bin, which they planned to burn and then bury, said government prosecutors.
Mendoza took his dead girlfriend’s body to his parents’ home in Sylmar, where it was found inside of a plastic trash can in a garage. Mendoza’s arrest by the Los Angeles Police Department was preceded by a standoff with police and SWAT team members.