An emotional 9-1-1 audiotape was the first piece of evidence prosecutors submitted in a murder trial that began Wednesday. Amid the background noise of Interstate 5 traffic, the terrified voices of Ana Berthan Meraz and her killer, Jose Perez-Silva, can be heard begging for help.

An emotional 9-1-1 audiotape was the first piece of evidence prosecutors submitted in a murder trial that began Wednesday. Amid the background noise of Interstate 5 traffic, the terrified voices of Ana Berthan Meraz and her killer, Jose Perez-Silva, can be heard begging for help.

"Hurry up! She's dying!" the defendant, Jose Perez-Silva tells a 9-1-1 operator. "She's really hurt. Somebody tried to kill her. She's bleeding everywhere."

Screams, groans and barely intelligible statements from Meraz also are heard as the operator tries to pin down an exact location.

"I'm dying. I'm on the freeway," Meraz cried.

As different versions of the tape played in a continual loop, Perez-Silva, 35, sat with his attorneys at the defense table in Jackson County Circuit Court, holding his head in his hands.

The Phoenix man admits to stabbing the Medford woman as she ended their affair in the early morning hours of May 3, 2005, while the pair were driving along the interstate in her silver Chrysler Sebring.

The question before Judge Tim Gerking is whether Perez-Silva is guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Perez-Silva attacked Meraz with a box cutter and left her bleeding on the side of the freeway with multiple wounds that would prove fatal.

That is murder, said prosecutor Eric Dames in opening statements at the bench trial.

"He's fully admitted to his attack on Ana Meraz. He knew that stabbing her would kill her," Dames said.

Defense attorneys concede Perez-Silva stabbed and slashed the 32-year-old mother in an altercation along the freeway. However, the defense argues, Perez-Silva's extreme emotional disturbance and medical problems left him without the intent to murder, so he should be found guilty only of manslaughter.

Perez-Silva and Meraz had a longstanding relationship while she was married to another man, but when Meraz was finally granted a divorce and was free to remarry, she began to pull away from him, said defense attorney Alyssa Bartholomew.

After Meraz returned from a trip to Mexico, Perez-Silva "dressed in his Sunday best" and professed his love to her as they drove to work in the early morning hours, Bartholomew said.

The pair had defied their church and suffered verbal and physical attacks during their "secret relationship," she said. Now, with Meraz's divorce final, they were free to marry. But when her client begged for Meraz's hand, she scorned him and "pulled her hand away," Bartholomew said, and the rejection caused Perez-Silva to snap.

"The next few minutes are as pictures flashing before his eyes," Bartholomew said. "When he comes to, she's asking him to call 9-1-1."

Ashland area paramedics testified they arrived at the pullout near Ashland's exit 11 at 5:49 a.m. A blood-soaked Meraz was sprawled on the ground outside her vehicle.

"She kind of pushed herself up on her arms and then fell over on her back," said Marshall Rasor. "She was crying out for help."

Rasor and his partner, Derek Rosenlund, said Meraz stated she knew her attacker, then lapsed into unconsciousness before offering a name.

"It was pretty clear to me she was dying," said Rosenlund. "That's why I asked that question."

Meraz had lost a significant amount of blood, and was still "actively bleeding" when they arrived, he testified.

"She needed a trauma unit. But she just went downhill fast," Rosenlund said, adding Meraz had no pulse and was not breathing when they loaded her onto the gurney and transported her to Rogue Valley Medical Center. They fought to save Meraz during the 18-minute drive, he said.

While Meraz was dying, Perez-Silva watched from the shrubs, then called a friend to come pick him up, Dames said. Perez-Silva left a trail of Meraz's blood in the friend's truck. By 9 a.m., he'd shown up at work trying to get money to fund his flight to California and then to Mexico, he said.

These actions show a consciousness of guilt, Dames said.

The defense said Perez-Silva, who grew up in a small village in Mexico, has trichinosis, an infestation of parasites found in pork that have 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, Bartholomew said.

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Perez-Silva on the murder charge in November 2005. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and a cross-border effort led to his capture near Puerto Vallarta in late May 2009. The trial is expected to continue into next week.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.