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Man sentenced in grisly killing of missing model who was strangled, injected with pool cleaner, and encased in concrete

Christopher Prestipino, left, was sentenced in the killing of Esmeralda Gonzalez. (Prestipino photo from Las Vegas Review-Journal; Gonzalez photo from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

Christopher Prestipino, left, was sentenced in the killing of Esmeralda Gonzalez. (Prestipino photo from Las Vegas Review-Journal; Gonzalez photo from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

A 49-year-old man has been sentenced to between 10 and 25 years behind bars for the gruesome killing of a 24-year-old Las Vegas model whose body was encased in a concrete box and dumped in the desert after she was strangled and injected with pool cleaner.

Christopher Prestipino was sentenced on Tuesday in the killing of Esmeralda Gonzalez, who was reported missing in May 2019 before an anonymous tip led police to her body months later. A second defendant, Prestipino’s ex-roommate Casandra Garrett, also pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced next month.

The victim’s brother said he was crushed over the death of his sister, who dreamed of going to law school.

“Learning that my sister was deceased deeply bruised my heart but learning how she died shattered my heart forever,” Juan Gonzalez-Medera read in court, according to CBS Las Vegas affiliate 8 News Now. “I now live in a world where I only get to see my sister alive when I dream at night and relive the nightmare of her death when I wake up in the morning.”

“My sister is and continues to be the light that shines within me,” he added.

Prestipino pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping last month to avoid a life sentence, his attorney, Craig Mueller, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Mueller declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing, saying the “facts speak for themselves,” the paper reported.

The defendant, who entered an Alford plea — allowing him to admit only that prosecutors had enough evidence to prove his guilt but not requiring that he actually admit to the crime — apologized in court and blamed Garrett, the Review-Journal reported.

“My involvement was after the fact,” Prestipino said Tuesday. “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.”

A redacted affidavit obtained by 8 News Now detailed the investigation on July 18, 2019, when the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide unit got an anonymous tip that Prestipino and Garrett had “killed an unknown woman.”

According to the affidavit, the two hired Esmeralda Gonzalez, described in the document as a prostitute who lived nearby — “essentially on the same street” as Prestipino, the affidavit noted. At the home, Prespitino “ended up getting her high on methamphetamine,” the affidavit said.

“Christopher was not aware of the female’s mental problems, and she started acting bizarre and speaking in the devil’s tongue,” the document states. “She threatened to call the cops on Christopher for the drugs he had given her.”

The document said he tied her to a chair to calm her down, but she punched him in the face when he tried to untie her later.

“The incident escalated, and Christopher strangled the girl, and he thought she was dead, but she woke up,” the document said.

The affidavit said Gonzalez died “after being injected with pool cleaner by the suspects.”

Prestipino allegedly bought five 60-pound bags of concrete mix, hardware, wood and tools from Home Depot. The affidavit said he returned to the store later to buy a drill and a concrete mixing paddle.

He also rented a U-Haul truck, the affidavit said. In the back was “a cement mixer and freezer, which was taped and strapped shut.”

The victim’s body was found north of Las Vegas in October 2019 in a structure made of wood and encased in concrete. Investigators said they used DNA from the victim’s bones and jewelry to identify the remains, according to NBC affiliate 3 News.

Prestipino was taken into custody on Oct. 11, 2019, on charges of murder, first-degree kidnapping resulting in substantial bodily harm, and conspiracy, police said.

A third defendant, Lisa Mort, Prestipino’s former girlfriend, pleaded guilty to being an accessory, was sentenced to 24 to 60 months in prison. She was released in February 2022, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

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