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Superior Court jury finds 29-year-old guilty of 2006 strangulation murder

A Merced County Superior Court jury found Julio Olivares, 29, of Merced, guilty of first-degree murder in the May 21, 2006, strangulation death of his ex-girlfriend Crystal Gallardo.

Olivares will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Feb. 27 in Department 4 of the court.

He is facing 25 years to life in the slaying of the 20-year-old woman who wanted to be a nurse.

Jurors reached the guilty verdict Tuesday after about four hours of deliberation in the courtroom of Judge Ronald Hansen. Deputy District Attorney Christa Gonzalez prosecuted the case.

"I am extremely thankful that the jury listened to the evidence and paid careful attention during the trial," Gonzalez said. "They thoroughly examined the evidence and rendered a fair and just verdict."

The murder happened during the late evening hours at Olivares' apartment on East Santa Fe Avenue in Merced. According to Olivares, he strangled the victim during an argument over issues that Gonzalez characterized as "trivial."

Olivares fled to Mexico and later surrendered to FBI agents who then transported him to the border where Merced police detectives were awaiting his arrival.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or