Man convicted of kill­ing wife, dumping body

A jury convicted a 26-year-old man Tuesday of first-degree murder in the 2011 slaying of his wife, whose body was found dumped in a wooded area near East San Jose in 2011, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

Jurors found defendant Marcus Casillas guilty in the homicide of Valerie Calderson Casillas, 29, who was reported missing Oct. 2, 2011 after she was seen getting into her husband’s car, Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker said.

On Oct. 5, 2011, a road worker came upon her body, which had eight gunshot wounds, lying in a 15-foot ravine in a hilly stretch of unincorporated county land near Sierra Road and Skyview Drive. Casillas’ two-week jury trial ended Tuesday. He will be sentenced in Superior Court in San Jose on March 6 by Judge Ron Del Pozzo and faces a term of 50 years to life in prison.

Braker said he argued that Casillas’ motive to kill his wife was domestic violence. The couple had been living apart while still married and the defendant had been convicted of felony domestic violence against her in 2009.

Only a day after her disappearance, on Oct. 3, 2011, Casillas was arrested on a probation violation. He remained in custody until San Jose police built a case identifying him as the prime suspect in the homicide and arrested him on Dec. 22 of that year.

Police said at the time of his arrest that a gun involved in a Dec. 15, 2011 officer-involved shooting that had been found in the possession of a gang member was also used in Valerie Casillas’ murder. However, the gun was never introduced as evidence in the trial due to “legal issues” with it, Braker said.

Even without tying the gun to the defendant, Braker said he had the “motive, the means and opportunity” to kill his wife. The prosecution showed that he owned a gun previously and his motive was influenced by a desire to commit domestic violence after his spouse had left him to live with a relative, Braker said.

At about 3 a.m. the day she disappeared, Valerie Casillas was seen getting into her husband’s car, a Pontiac Grand Prix, near Waverly Avenue and Orlando Drive, according to Braker. Valerie Casillas’ sister testified that Valerie suffered from domestic violence inflicted by her husband, he said.

The couple had been taking care of four children, one of their own and three Valerie Casillas had from a previous relationship, he said. The defendant’s Santa Cruz-based lawyer, Christine McGuire, declined to comment on the case.