BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man who claimed he acted in self-defense when he stabbed his girlfriend in the neck multiple times during an argument over money was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder, according to court records.

Cody Joyave, 24, faces a life term in prison at his Jan. 26 sentencing. He remains held without bail.

Joyave killed Lupe Melendrez, 22, early May 20 in their Oildale apartment. Prosecutors said in a news release there had been prior domestic violence in the relationship, with Joyave choking Melendrez unconscious the month before.

Lupe Melendrez, photo courtesy Kern County District Attorney’s office

“Our community lost a beautiful soul in Lupe Melendrez,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in a news release. “While no verdict can bring Lupe back, the jury’s decisive rejection of the defendant’s lies and smears against the victim should be a warning to domestic abusers who think they can manipulate or outsmart jurors in Kern County.”

Interviewed after Melendrez’s death, Joyave said the last year of their relationship had been “a little rocky,” according to court documents. They had more than $25,000 in credit card debt and he was unemployed.

He initially said Melendrez killed herself, but soon changed his story.

That morning, Joyave told detectives, Melendrez said she didn’t trust him anymore and accused him of making their situation worse.

She left the bedroom and returned armed with a knife and “that’s when I grabbed her wrist to try to stop her from coming at me with it . . .,” Joyave said according to the documents. He said he forced her to drop the knife, then used it to stab her.

Joyave acknowledged being stronger than Melendrez and stabbing her while she was unarmed, documents said.

According to the District Attorney’s office release, Melendrez suffered multiple slash and stab wounds to her throat, and she had been beaten and choked.

At trial, Joyave changed his story yet again, testifying he “just snapped” after experiencing physical and emotional abuse from Melendrez, prosecutors said.

About a month before her death, Melendrez threatened to leave Joyave and he responded with an apparent suicide attempt by overdosing on prescription medications, Melendrez’s mother told investigators according to the documents. She said Joyave had his stomach pumped and was placed on a mental evaluation hold.

Melendrez’s mother said her daughter had been planning to move back home, according to the documents.