A Tanglewood man pleaded guilty in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria to charges stemming from the 2021 fatal shooting of his wife after a dispute escalated between the divorcing couple.
Eladio Herrera, 65, was charged in connection with the Feb. 28, 2021, death of Dolores Reyes, 38, inside a home on the 1800 block of Ironwood Drive in the Tanglewood subdivision west of Santa Maria.
She had been shot multiple times in the torso.
Earlier this month, Herrera changed his plea to guilty in the case, in which he faced charges of second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Deputies said they learned that in addition to the defendant and the victim, her 17-year-old son and their 15-year-old daughter were in the house.
The incident began when the son closed the door as Herrera attempted to let a cat outside at night, sparking an argument because of concerns for the feline’s safety. The dispute drew Reyes into the kitchen.
The girl was in her room sleeping but recalled hearing her parents arguing, her mom yelling to call 911 and then something similar to “No, no, get away” followed by at least two bangs, a detective testified last year in the preliminary hearing.
When the son heard his mom yell to call 911, the son, who left the kitchen and entered his bedroom, told detectives he locked the door, fearing the defendant would harm him, a detective said.
After hearing gunshots, he opened his window and pushed out the screen, hearing his door open and seeing Herrera pointing a gun.
Reyes reportedly accused Herrera of pushing the son. As the dispute escalated, Herrera told law enforcement officers that he left the kitchen and walked down a hallway toward his bedroom, where he grabbed a loaded firearm.
Herrera allegedly admitted walking toward Reyes, disengaging the gun’s safety, raising the firearm and shooting his wife.
The defendant and the victim were in the process of the getting divorced but lived in the same home, sleeping in separate areas, a detective said, adding that Herrera believe she wanted his property.
Herrera reportedly said, “I shot my wife,” to one of the first deputies to arrive at the scene.
He was ordered to stand trial for the charges after an October 2021 preliminary hearing.
In addition to pleading guilty to the two charges, Herrera also admitted an enhancement for use of a firearm.
Deputy District Attorney Catherine Martin led the prosecution team. Michael Scott represented Herrera.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Herrera is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-November to four years plus 15 years to life in state prison.
Herrera remains in the custody of the Northern Branch Jail.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.