By NEAL PUTNAM
A trial date of Oct. 4 was set on Feb. 24 for the man suspected of lying in wait and killing a teacher in North Park who was engaged to the man’s ex-girlfriend.
Jesse Milton Alvarez, 31, pleaded not guilty before a San Diego Superior Court judge in the Feb. 1, 2021, slaying of Mario Fierro, 37.
Judge Daniel Goldstein heard testimony Feb. 9 in the preliminary hearing and ordered Alvarez to stand trial for murder with the special circumstance of lying-in-wait.
A prosecutor may announce on March 25 whether the District Attorney’s office will seek the death penalty or a life term in prison without the possibility of parole if Alvarez is convicted of first-degree murder.
Fierro was a popular teacher and football coach at Cathedral Catholic High School and was engaged to Amy Gembara, another teacher, who testified in the hearing that she broke up with Alvarez in Sept., 2019.
“He did not take no for an answer,” said Gembara, who said she filed for a restraining order against Alvarez after he repeatedly called her and went to her home.
Alvarez is suspected of waiting an hour outside the home of Fierro, 37, who was shot six times on Feb. 1. Fierro was found at 7:10 a.m. on the sidewalk of Kansas Street near Monroe Ave.
The firearm was painted white. One witness who was watching from a distance thought the two men were struggling with a thermometer until she heard shots fired. She had thought it was a dispute over COVID-19.
A DA investigator testified Alvarez purchased a firearm and took multiple gun safety courses the same day. He interviewed a course instructor who told him that Alvarez asked him this odd question: “Where’s the best place to shoot someone to kill them?”
The safety course instructor told Alvarez the purpose of firing a gun is stop a threat, not to kill someone, said the investigator.
Alvarez allegedly used his brother’s car to travel to North Park to kill Fierro. Police arrested Alvarez at his Serra Mesa home about 13 hours later and seized a handgun that is suspected of being the murder weapon.
Alvarez remains in the George Bailey Detention Facility without bail.
When Gembara was asked about Fierro, she said, “We shared dreams and goals and visions together.”
— Neal Putnam is a local court reporter.