MARTINEZ — An Oakland man who repeatedly stabbed his estranged wife in a truck near the Caldecott Tunnel and then left her to die in front of witnesses on Fish Ranch Road expressed remorse today before he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

Robert Loren Woods, 48, was convicted last month of second-degree murder with the use of a knife in the death of Elnora Caldwell, 46, of Oakland, on Oct. 25, 2008. His attorney argued the crime was committed in the "heat of passion," because of extreme distress over the end of their relationship.

"If I could foresee Oct. 25, I would have run the other way," Woods said in a Martinez courtroom filled with Caldwell's family and some of his own. " I was not in my right mind, and I hadn't been for a couple months.

"I will forever be longing for your forgivingness," he said. "I am deeply and truly sorry. Please forgive me."

Caldwell, a Louisiana native and mother of four who worked in the lingerie department at Nordstrom in downtown San Francisco, ended her six-year marriage with Woods in part because of his infidelity. He was desperate to reconcile, but she was moving on and had started dating again. After telling members of her large family that Woods stalking, threatening and being physically violent toward her, Caldwell obtained a restraining order.

"I don't want to be another statistic," Caldwell wrote in her application to get the restraining order, read in court today by prosecutor Jason Peck. "I'm fearful of this man. He's violent and I need protection."

Caldwell agreed to meet with Woods on the day the killing after hearing from a mutual friend that he was not doing well. Woods drove her to the Orinda side of the Caldecott Tunnel and, during an argument, stabbed her several times. Passers-by came to Caldwell's aid after she was pushed from the vehicle to the side of the road, where she lay dying.

Caldwell was a "wonderful woman," sweet and caring, with a strong faith and a heart capable of forgiving anyone, relatives tearfully told the court.

"I love my mom, and I feel like I didn't get a chance to show her because you took her from me," Caldwell's son, Dejon Wilkes told Woods. "It's hard and it's always going to be hard."