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Spring Valley

A jury Wednesday found that convicted murderer Francisco Urias Uriarte was sane when he killed two people and attempted to kill two others.

The jury deliberated an hour before deciding that Uriarte was sane while high on drugs when he killed two people and wounded two others Oct. 15, 1987, in Spring Valley.

Uriarte’s attorney, Athena Shudde, had asked the jury to find her client insane at the time of the incident because he was high on cocaine, marijuana and beer. According to testimony of psychiatrists called by the defense, Uriarte suffered from acute drug psychosis.

Uriarte was convicted Friday of murdering Jeff Constantino, 37, and his wife, Nancy, 36, who were visiting a friend and neighbor of Uriarte, John Alva, 34.

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Uriarte, 33, went to Alva’s apartment, saying he believed his wife was being held captive there, even though she was in a Tijuana hospital.

After being told by Alva that his wife was not there and believing Alva and the Constantinos were laughing at him, Uriarte returned with a gun.

He opened fire on Jeff Constantino and then on Nancy Constantino. He then shot Alva, who was attempting to flee, several times in the back.

Uriarte then left the murder scene and shot Tom Eberwein, 33.

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According to a psychiatrist who interviewed the defendant, Uriarte told him he thought the gun, a 9mm pistol, was a tomato and Alva and the Constantinos were some kind of wolf or dog people.

“The offenses here, as horrible as they may be, are also bizarre,” Shudde told the jury. “There are no rational reasons why they occurred. . . . He was a man not in his right mind.

“The drugs created a mental defect. These were the acts of a man who didn’t know what he was doing.”

However, Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Walden told the jury that Uriarte must face the consequences of his actions regardless of whether he was high on drugs. Quoting medical reports, he said Uriarte is sane and was aware during the murders that what he was doing was wrong.

Walden said it is up to the defense to prove that Uriarte didn’t know he was committing murder and that he didn’t understand that what he was doing was wrong.

“His fleeing of the scene and then hiding is proof he knew what he did was wrong,” Walden told the jury.

Uriarte was convicted of one count of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was also found to have committed the crime under special circumstances, but the district attorney did not seek the death penalty.

Uriarte will be sentenced April 12 and could be given life in prison without parole.

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