San Diego

Terry Ruza was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the shooting of a girlfriend.

Ruza, 40, of Escondido, was convicted in the May 11 shooting of Leona Lara, 33, with whom he lived. A San Diego Superior Court jury deliberated four days before finding Ruza guilty of second-degree murder. The prosecution has sought a first-degree murder conviction.

Jurors hurried out of the courthouse late Monday afternoon without commenting on their verdict.


Deputy Dist. Atty. Dave Lattuca said Ruza faces a maximum sentence of 22 years to life in prison.

Ruza, who remains in County Jail without bail, previously was convicted of manslaughter in the 1980 slaying of his wife, Pamela Ruza, with a hammer in Riverside in 1979.

Judge David Gill set sentencing for Jan. 27.

Ruza’s attorney, C. Logan McKechnie, said: “The jury by their decision said they don’t believe there was premeditation. The jury decided it was not premeditated murder.” He said he would file a motion for a new trial.

Ruza admitted that he shot Lara but said it was self-defense after the enraged woman came at him with a gun May 11, after finding romantic cards addressed to him from another woman.

Her body was found May 18 in a cardboard barrel in a Southeast San Diego garage after residents complained of a foul odor. She had been shot four times in the head.

Two of the wounds were described by a pathologist as being “contact wounds,” in which the gun’s muzzle was touching her skin.

Ruza admitted disposing of the body, but said he panicked after the shooting because he didn’t think police would believe his self-defense story because of his previous conviction.