Posted on: April 27, 2023, 12:01h.
Last updated on: April 27, 2023, 01:52h.
A Las Vegas man who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder charges will spend 10 to 25 years in prison for the gruesome death of a 24-year-old model.
District Judge Carli Kierny announced the sentence on Tuesday to defendant Christopher Prestipino, 49, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping on March 13 under the Alford doctrine, where he maintains his innocence but acknowledges prosecutors likely have sufficient evidence for a conviction.
Craig Mueller, the Las Vegas-based criminal defense attorney representing Prestipino, told the Review-Journal his client agreed to the plea deal because “He didn’t want to risk a life sentence.”
My involvement was after the fact,” Prestipino said Tuesday during the court proceeding. “I don’t believe this death was intentional, but like the medical examiner, I still don’t know the exact cause of death. I do regret ever meeting the co-defendant.”
Prestipino must also pay $4,909 in restitution, according to the judge’s sentence.
“Throughout this process I haven’t known much about her, and she sounds like a wonderful person,” Judge Kierny told the victim’s brother in court. “I am so sorry that you lost her in this way.”
Prestipino and two other suspects were arrested in connection with the murder.
One of the other suspects in the case, Lisa Mort, who was identified as Prestipino’s one-time girlfriend, assisted Prestipino in the crime, police said. She was charged with harboring, concealing, and aiding a felony offender.
Another woman, Cassandra Garret, Prestipino’s roommate, was also charged.
Mort pleaded guilty in 2020 to being an accessory to murder and was sentenced to two and five years in prison. Garret pleaded guilty in 2021 to voluntary manslaughter and will be sentenced next month.
Prestipino killed Esmeralda Gonzalez in May 2019 and, the following month, discarded her body in a 250-gallon water tank covered with concrete and wood, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Gonzalez’s body was left in the desert north of Las Vegas. Five months later, near Glendale, Nev., the body was discovered by police. Her hands were tied, and her head and neck were covered with white tape, People reported. The body was covered by blankets. An autopsy failed to identify the cause of her death.
Gonzalez was seen on surveillance video outside Prestipino’s residence on May 31, 2019, wearing high heels and lingerie and appearing disoriented, according to the New York Post.
When she entered his home, Prestipino gave her methamphetamine (meth), according to Las Vegas TV station KTNV. She started to act “bizarre” and speak “in the devil’s tongue,” a police report revealed. Prestipino tied her to a chair. He then strangled her and apparently injected a pool-cleaning substance into her body.
Gonzalez was associated with the adult entertainment industry, the Review-Journal reported. She had more than 300K followers on Instagram. Gonzalez grew up in Mexico and had attended UNLV, People reported.
Gonzalez hoped to one day attend law school.