A SLO County jury on Jan. 31 found Manuel Jesus Perez, 43, of Grover Beach, guilty of murder and arson.
Perez was convicted of stabbing his roommate, 37-year-old Joseph Charles Kienly IV, to death and then setting fire to the body in a Grover Beach home where the two rented rooms on July 11, 2016.
- File Photo By Steve E. Miller
- PEREZ GUILTY Manuel Jesus Perez man was found guilty Jan. 30 of murdering his roommate and setting the body on fire in a Grover beach home July, 11, 2016.
During the three-week trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Perez premeditated the murder, fashioning a homemade knife and buying lighter fluid before lying in wait in a dark hallway outside Kienly's room "like a cheetah waits for gazelle," as Perez told investigators, before attacking and fatally stabbing Kienly. Perez then set fire to the body in the home's kitchen before fleeing the scene. He was later arrested in SLO.
Prior to the trial, Perez pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges against him. But Perez amended that plea to simply "not guilty" Jan. 30, the same day jurors heard closing arguments and began their deliberations.
SLO County Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth indicated he was not surprised that Perez dropped his insanity plea.
"Over the development of the case, it just seemed like that would have not have been a successful avenue [for Perez's defense]," he said.
According to court records, the jury took less than 24 hours to convict Perez. He will appear in court again on Feb. 7 for a hearing to determine if prior convictions, or "strikes," on his record will be taken into consideration as part of his sentence. A sentencing date for Perez will not be scheduled until after that determination has been made. Δ