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Instead of a Life Together, Man Must Bury His Bride

June 01, 1993|MAURA DOLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Maywood man whose bride was shot to death at their wedding reception spent Monday arranging for her funeral instead of their new life together.

"They were preparing everything for their future," said Dalila Perez, 28, at whose Maywood home the reception took place. "They had a lot of dreams."

Iliana Valencia Perez, 19, was killed by a former boyfriend at 7:30 p.m. Saturday as she stood in the garage with her new husband, Miguel, and their guests only a few hours after the couple exchanged wedding vows.

The home was decorated with white streamers and wedding bells, and family members were just preparing to serve the wedding feast in the back yard when Salvador Mejia charged into the garage. The groom, dressed in a mariachi suit, was putting beers into a refrigerator while his bride received congratulations from relatives.

"The man ran in and tapped her on the shoulder," said Andrea Serrano, 40, the groom's aunt, who saw the shooting. "Iliana turned around, and he said he was going to kill her, and she just yelled, 'Oh my God!' "

Mejia pumped two bullets into her abdomen and one into her head before shooting himself in the head.

Miguel Perez, 26, rushed over to his wife, who lay in her blood-soaked wedding dress not far from a large, white wedding bell suspended from the garage ceiling. She died instantly.

"He couldn't do anything; it happened too fast," Serrano said. "When he saw her laying on the floor with blood, he just kept crying, 'Why? Why? Why?' "

Iliana had obtained a restraining order May 20 to keep Mejia away after he threatened to kill her and himself if she married someone else, police said. The two had broken up about eight months ago. Mejia, a produce clerk, died at an East Los Angeles hospital Saturday evening.

Dalila Perez, the groom's sister-in-law, said the bride told her she had seen Mejia drive by the Perez home on the morning of the wedding.

Iliana was nervous but did not want to call the police because she was afraid of upsetting her parents, Perez said. "She said: 'Don't worry. He won't come back.' "

Iliana and Miguel were married by a judge at 3 p.m. and then returned to the Perez home for the reception. About 80 guests attended. At the sound of gunshots, the guests screamed and ran in panic out of the house, dragging their children with them. The Perezes' telephone was not working, so a neighbor summoned police.

Maywood Police Officer Rick Lopez said adults and children dressed up for the celebration and carrying presents were still arriving as he pulled up to the home. A wedding cake was in the kitchen, and a table laden with gifts stood near the front of the house.

"I have been an officer for 10 years, and I have seen a lot of people die, but to me this was really shocking," Lopez said. "Especially because it was something so sacred."

He said the suspect was breathing when officers arrived, and the bride lay dead at his side in her long white gown. The groom was hysterical, and the bride's mother fainted. Children huddled with their parents near the street.

Dalila Perez said the couple planned to live with her and her husband, forgoing a honeymoon to save money. Miguel Perez prints wallpaper, and Iliana was in college studying business.

Miguel spent Monday with friends, trying to make funeral arrangements. His sister-in-law said he appeared to still be in shock. "He only cries and that is it," she said.

Now, after the expenses of the wedding, the family has no money for the funeral.

"We have a big problem," Perez said. "We have to pay for the funeral now. I am going to try to collect some money because Miguel doesn't have it."

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