Spring Valley

Jury deliberations are to resume today in the murder trial of a Spring Valley man accused of killing a couple and wounding two other people.

Attorneys gave their closing arguments, and the jury began deliberations Thursday in the Superior Court trial of Francisco Uriarte, 33, who is charged with shooting the four people Oct. 15, 1987, in his apartment complex. Killed were Jeffrey Constantino, 37, and his wife, Nancy, 36.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Walden urged a first-degree murder verdict and a special-circumstances finding since there were multiple murder victims, which could lead to life imprisonment.

Walden also asked for a conviction on attempted murder in the wounding of John Alva, 34, in whose apartment the gunfire occurred, and Tom Eberwein, 33, a bystander outside.

Uriarte has pleaded innocent to the charges by reason of insanity. A separate hearing to determine his mental status during the shootings will be held after the jury reaches a verdict.

If he is convicted and found to be sane, Uriarte could be sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The district attorney's office decided not to seek the death penalty.

If found insane, Uriarte would probably be committed to a mental hospital, possibly for life.

His attorney, Athena Shudde, suggested that voluntary manslaughter might be a more appropriate verdict in the killings because she said Uriarte could not premeditate the shootings or harbor malice, a necessary finding for a murder conviction.

Both Shudde and Walden agree that Uriarte was under the influence of cocaine.

The shootings occurred after Uriarte knocked on Alva's door, asking about Uriarte's wife, who was in the hospital at the time. Witnesses said Uriarte claimed his wife was being held hostage in Alva's apartment and suddenly began firing.

"There's no rational explanation for why these things occurred," said the defense attorney. "No one is more sorry than my client."

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