A Chula Vista woman has been ordered to surrender by July 21 to begin her 21-month federal prison for giving a false alibi for her then-boyfriend who was later convicted of killing a man in Mexico.
Taylor Marie Langston, 21, was hoping to get probation or home detention after she pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to obstruct justice. Her sister tearfully rushed out of the courtroom when she was sentenced June 16 by U.S. District Court Judge Jeff Miller.
Langston, who is now also known as Taylor Meza, is free on $50,000 bond.
Her husband, David Enrique Meza, 27, of Otay Mesa, was convicted May 2 of killing Jake Clyde Merendino, 52, who was stabbed 22 times and had his throat slashed twice on a darkened road between Rosarito and Ensenada in Baja California. Merendino was Meza’s boyfriend at the time.
After seven days of deliberations, the eight woman, four man jury convicted Meza of killing an American citizen in a foreign country and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He is facing a life term in federal prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 7. He remains in federal prison without bail.
Langston was also in Mexico when Merendino was killed, but she was nine months pregnant at the time. She was not at the murder site and had never met Merendino. Her lawyer said she did not know her then-boyfriend had a boyfriend himself.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ciaffa asked for a 37-month prison term, saying “she covered up a murder and obstructed a murder investigation.” Ciaffa said. “She was sharing the profits” of Meza’s relationship with Merendino, who had given her boyfriend a $45,000 sports car, money for nursing school, and a motorcycle.
Meza submitted a handwritten will supposedly written by the victim on stationary from the Hercor Hotel in Chula Vista to the probate court in Texas, claiming he was the sole beneficiary of Merendino, who was wealthy. Merendino had already prepared a will in 1998 with an attorney whom he instructed to donate his estate to worthy animal causes.
Langston’s attorney, Don Levine, argued Langston met Meza when she was 16 years old and was naive. He described Meza as “an abuser, male prostitute, and a murderer.”
Levine wrote in court papers that Meza often forced Langston into sex, battered her, and once pushed an empty bookcase onto her. He filed documents showing that Meza was arrested for battery on her on Jan. 18, 2014 by Chula Vista Police in the 600 block of K Street.
Meza was later placed on three years probation for domestic violence and ordered to attend a 52-week domestic violence recovery program.
“She might have ended up like Jake Merendino,” said Levine. “She was the victim of lies and deceit.”
Levine noted that Langston is the full time caretaker for her 2-year-old daughter and described her as “a wonderful mother.” The baby had been taken away by Child Protective Services when Langston and Meza were arrested in December 2015, but a Juvenile Court judge ordered the baby be returned to Langston’s custody after she posted bond as part of a reunification plan.
Miller wanted to know what specific damage Langston did to the case. She was not charged with murder. Ciaffa said Langston’s lies to authorities delayed the investigation by 17 days. When she was first questioned in June, 2015, Langston claimed she and Meza were with a friend in Tijuana the night of the murder. When investigators interviewed the friend, he said he had not seen the couple in years.
“Her lie was also constructed to protect herself,” said Miller.
Miller said Langston’s age and having a young child were factors he considered in imposing a lesser sentence than what the prosecutor sought or the 70 months that federal sentencing guidelines recommend. The probation department recommended three years in prison.
The victim’s two cousins wrote letters to the judge asking for longer sentences. Jennifer Sojka wrote that she had to identify her cousin’s body in the Rosarito morgue and it traumatized her. “That picture has become ingrained in my mind forever and I think of it most every day,” she wrote.
Sojka wrote that she signed eight pages of words in Spanish and she had no idea what she was signing. She said the coroner acted as an interpreter. “I was still in shock from viewing Jay’s body. I think the worst part was imagining what he went through—how scared he must have been and the horrible pain he must have felt,” she wrote.
Another cousin, A. Mark Faggard, wrote that the proposed sentence in the plea agreement of 36 to 48 months was “much too lenient.” He wrote that family members felt Langston’s sentence should range from 8-10 years.
While Langston has been free on bond, she has worked for a business known as Happy Head Massage, according to a letter from the firm’s owner. Langston’s duties were in bookkeeping and data entry, and was considered one of their best employees, the letter said. She is a 2013 graduate of Chula Vista High School.