Bench trial starts in 2005 stabbing on Interstate 5

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Gerking must decide whether a man accused of stabbing a Medford woman on Interstate 5 in May 2005 is guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Defense attorneys for Jose Perez-Silva, 35, concede that he stabbed and slashed 32-year-old Ana Berthan Meraz in an altercation along the freeway. However, the defense opened a bench trial before Gerking this morning with the argument that Perez-Silva's extreme emotional disturbance and medical problems left him without the intent to murder, so he should only be found guilty of manslaughter.

Attorneys said Perez-Silva and Meraz had long-standing relationship, but when Meraz was finally granted a divorce and church permission to remarry, she began to pull away from Perez-Silva.

In an emotional haze, he attacked her with a box cutter, leaving her bleeding on the side of the freeway with multiple superficial injuries and one deep wound that proved fatal after Meraz was rushed to a local hospital, opening arguments recounted today. The defense argued that Perez-Silva, who grew up in a village in Mexico, has trichinosis, an infestation of parasites found in pork, that has formed cysts in the frontal lobe of his brain. He also was being treated for depression and had expressed concerns to doctors that Meraz might leave him, attorneys said.

After the 2005 stabbing, Perez-Silva fled to Mexico. A Jackson County grand jury indicted him on a murder charge in November 2005 and a warrant was issued for his arrest. A cross-border effort led to his arrest near Puerto Vallarta in late May 2009.

— Staff reports

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