Prosecutor: Spurned man shot Cathedral Catholic teacher, ‘executing’ new love of ex-girlfriend

Jesse Milton Alvarez in custody at San Diego Central Courthouse
Jesse Alvarez, 30, appears for his arraignment at the San Diego Central Courthouse on Wednesday. Alvarez is accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend’s new fiancé, Mario Fierro, a teacher at Cathedral Catholic High School, in front of Fierro’s North Park home Feb. 1.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Jesse Alvarez charged with murder, lying in wait in death of Mario Fierro


The shooter dressed in black and painted his guns white, a prosecutor said.

Around dawn, he drove his brother’s car to North Park and waited about an hour. When the gunman’s target — his ex-girlfriend’s new fiancé — came outside, he pulled the trigger, shooting the victim multiple times at close range, “executing him,” Deputy District Attorney Ramona McCarthy said.

Those and other allegations were revealed in court Wednesday as a San Diego man pleaded not guilty in the Feb. 1 shooting death of Cathedral Catholic High school teacher Mario Fierro.

Jesse Milton Alvarez, 30, is accused of murder and using a gun to commit the crime, along with the special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait.

Mario Fierro, 37
(Courtesy photo)

Fierro, 37, was gunned down just after 7 a.m. on the street in front of his home. He recently had become engaged to a woman who had dated Alvarez for more than three years.

The special-circumstance allegation means Alvarez could face the death penalty, if convicted. The District Attorney’s Office usually announces its decision as to whether it will seek execution of a defendant, or life in prison without the possibility of parole, after an evidentiary proceeding known as a preliminary hearing has been held in the case.

During Alvarez’s arraignment Wednesday, defense attorney Peter Blair asked San Diego Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide to consider setting bail for Alvarez at $1.5 million, saying his client was well-educated, has good ties to his church and community, and his parents run a missionary.

“His whole life he has dedicated to helping individuals,” Blair said.

Eyherabide opted to keep Alvarez jailed without bail after hearing the facts of the case as laid out by McCarthy. The prosecutor said Alvarez “fixated on” his former girlfriend and that he still presented a threat to her.

The relationship between Alvarez and the woman ended when she broke it off in early September 2019. Four months later she asked a judge for a restraining order, accusing Alvarez of repeatedly trying to contact her, cyberstalking her and trying to break into her apartment. His behavior was “erratic” and had “escalated,” she wrote in court documents, and she was “extremely afraid.”

Alvarez told Superior Court Judge Daniel Belsky he would back off. Belsky denied the permanent restraining order.

According to the McCarthy, Alvarez “could not get over it.” The prosecutor said the woman, referred to in court only as Jane Doe, “changed her entire life to avoid direct contact by the defendant.” She moved, changed her phone number and deleted her social media accounts.

McCarthy said Alvarez had two semiautomatic guns painted white, “decoy-like.” He also practiced shooting at a local range, where he earned several training certificates.

She said he also showed up at Cathedral Catholic High School, where his ex-girlfriend worked, “despite knowing he was not welcome on campus.”

On the day of the shooting, Alvarez dressed in black and drove his brother’s car to Fierro’s home on Kansas Street, the prosecutor said. There, he waited about an hour for Fierro to come outside.

“He then approached Mr. Fierro and shot him multiple times, executing him” McCarthy said.

Alvarez was arrested at his home later that day. The prosecutor said that when police searched Alvarez’s Serra Mesa residence, they found a second gun: a semiautomatic rifle, painted white, inside rifle case made to look like a guitar case. They also found multiple magazines — including those capable of holding several rounds — and multiple boxes of ammunition, as well as clothes with the Cathedral Catholic logo.

McCarthy read a statement from Alvarez’s ex-girlfriend, who wanted him to remain jailed.

“I stand before you a victim of the court when I sought to protect myself in January 2020 and my cries for help were wrongfully denied,” the woman wrote.

“I stand before you grief-stricken and heartbroken over the murder of my fiancé Mario Fierro, who was the true love of my life,” she wrote. “I stand before you hoping this time to be taken seriously.”

Alvarez’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 8, although the attorneys signaled the court that that could be postponed.

—Teri Figueroa is a reporter for The San Diego Union Tribune