A Bakersfield man who confessed to the grisly killing of his pregnant girlfriend has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and told a judge, "I'm guilty," during his first court appearance Tuesday.
Manuel Vela, 28, wore paper clothing, an indication he is on suicide watch, when he appeared before Judge Michael G. Bush in Department 15 of Kern County Superior Court. He looked around the courtroom and at the ceiling as Bush asked if he was willing to postpone his arraignment.
Vela first said he was guilty. Then, as a deputy public defender tried to stop him from speaking, he said, "I'm here for God and I totally..." before Bush cut him off and postponed the arraignment to Dec. 21.
He is being held without bail.
Vela told KBAK Channel 29 in a jailhouse interview that he strangled Katrina Rivera, 30, on Dec. 8 after an argument outside their home. He said he later cut the child out of her. The coroner's office reported she was 39 weeks pregnant with a boy.
Vela was arrested Saturday following a chase in east Bakersfield. Around 11:30 a.m., Kern County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the 2500 block of Haley Street, where Vela was driving a maroon 2000 Hyundai Elantra.
He fled from deputies, hitting multiple vehicles and attempting to hit a California Highway Patrol officer as he tried to get away, sheriff's officials said. After several attempts, deputies got Vela to pull over on Mount Vernon Avenue near East Bakersfield High School and Kern Medical Center.
Vela then ran from the car and was arrested shortly afterward, sheriff's officials said.
An infant in the car, who was taken to KMC following the pursuit, died. Rivera, who had been reported missing under suspicious circumstances, was found dead in the car.
Coroner's officials are investigating how and when Rivera died.
Vela pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor spousal abuse charge, court records show. He also has convictions for misdemeanor battery from 2009 and 2012.
In 2014, he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of taking a vehicle without the owner's consent, court records show.