By Elizabeth Daley
(Reuters) – A man who was on the run for decades will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing a woman he thought was his ex-wife’s lover in a Philadelphia restaurant on Father’s Day in 1992, his lawyer said on Thursday.
Santiago Pedroso, 73, was subject to a mandatory minimum life sentence after a Philadelphia jury on Wednesday deliberated for an hour and found him guilty of the first degree murder of Delores Alvarez, 40, in the Germantown section of the city.
Pedroso’s court-appointed lawyer, Richard Giuliani, said his client was celebrating Father’s Day at the restaurant with his then 17-year-old daughter when Alvarez and his estranged wife Maria Gomez entered the restaurant.
Giuliani said Alvarez, who was a medium and a card reader, was previously friends with Pedroso, who was a spiritualist and practiced Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion practiced by many Caribbean Americans.
He said Alvarez moved in with Pedroso’s family but then moved out with Gomez, and Pedroso thought the pair were going to take his daughter away from him.
Giuliani said Pedroso ran from the restaurant to his house to get a gun and came back and shot Alvarez five times, killing her.
Pedroso’s daughter, who is now 40, took the stand on Wednesday and told jurors that she begged her father not to shoot Alvarez, Giuliani said.
Following the shooting, Giuliani said, his client fled the country and started a new family but was eventually extradited from the Philippines in 2013, after trying to renew his passport at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Because Pedroso confessed to the murder when he was captured, Giuliani said, the case was difficult to win.
“You can imagine that a confession is very powerful evidence. In his confession he said he shot her because she had a gun and fired at him first, but there was no other evidence found anywhere inside the restaurant that supported that theory,” he said.
Prosecutor Richard Sax could not be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley in Pittsburgh; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)