A woman who pleaded guilty in the shooting death of her friend, whose body was found in a Chula Vista field, was sentenced Thursday to just over a decade in state prison.
Vanesa Gastellu, 31, went to trial on a murder charge for the killing of 23-year-old Christina Garcia. A bystander discovered the victim’s body on the morning of Aug. 5, 2020 near the 3100 block of Main Street.
A Chula Vista jury was unable to reach a verdict in the trial and Gastellu later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping counts. She was sentenced Thursday to 10 years and four months in prison.
At trial, prosecutors alleged Gastellu and others took Garcia to that field because they believed Garcia had “snitched” to law enforcement, leading to the shooting death of their fellow gang member and Gastellu’s on-again, off- again boyfriend, David Angulo.
Gastellu’s defense attorney argued the victim was actually killed by gang members who allowed Gastellu to take the fall for Garcia’s slaying.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Rhoads told jurors that just prior to Angulo’s death, Garcia was with Angulo in an SUV that was being tracked by police because Angulo was a suspect in three shootings. At some point, Angulo, 33, ran from the SUV and carjacked the driver of a pickup truck, leading to a police pursuit and his fatal shooting by Chula Vista police officers on July 20, 2020.
According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, Angulo eventually ditched the stolen pickup and unsuccessfully tried to barge into a residence. He then pointed a gun at officers who cornered him and fatally shot him, the D.A.’s Office said.
Rhoads said Angulo’s death devastated Gastellu, who later allegedly told a friend “I got word that Christina was with him” and “I’m going to get to the bottom of this because someone snitched on him.”
One night before Garcia’s death, the victim messaged her mother about threats she’d been receiving in connection with Angulo’s death. She told her mother she was going to confront the people threatening her, the prosecutor said.
Her body was found the following morning with three gunshot wounds.
Gastellu’s defense attorney, Christine Basic, told jurors Garcia was killed by gang members who Gastellu “thought were her friends” and those same people threatened Gastellu’s life in that field. Basic said Garcia’s killers “left her to take the blame” and spread rumors that she was involved.
The prosecution alleged Gastellu told several others that she was the killer and deleted location data on her phone and her Facebook account less than a day after the shooting.
— City News Service