updated 6/12/2005 1:27:51 AM ET 2005-06-12T05:27:51

A jury has convicted a man of strangling and smothering his eight months’ pregnant girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter, a crime that could get him the death penalty.

Prosecutors suggested James Manuel Noriega, 35, had a rocky relationship with his girlfriend and believed she was cheating on him.

The nude bodies of 21-year-old Kathleen Martinez and her daughter Savanna Zamora were found in the shower of a motel room where the couple had been living. Martinez had a pair of black stretch pants twisted around her neck.

The jury on Friday found Noriega guilty of first-degree murder with the special allegation that he terminated a pregnancy.

Jurors will begin deciding on June 20 whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

The defense claimed the murder investigation was botched and that Noriega had an alibi for much of the time when the crimes probably were committed. The couple had no history of physical violence, defense lawyers said.

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