Judge allows Glenwood murder case to go to trial
March 31, 2017
A district court judge Friday found enough evidence to try Gustavo Olivo-Tellez on a first-degree murder charge stemming from the slaying of his wife south of Glenwood Springs last fall.
Preliminary hearings require that prosecutors present enough evidence to justify continuing court cases for serious felony charges, and Judge John Neiley found evidence was sufficient to move forward.
Olivo-Tellez is charged in the October shooting death of Blanca Salas-Jurado, who was his estranged wife and the mother of his 3-year-old son, in her apartment complex just south of Glenwood Springs.
Also implicated in the crime is Michelle Castillo, the defendant's girlfriend, who faces charges of accessory to murder and possession of a weapon by a previous offender. She is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 22.
Prosecutors called only one witness at the preliminary hearing: Brian Sutton, a lead Garfield County investigator in the case.
Sutton recalled the course of the investigation leading to Olivo-Tellez's capture and the narrative of events that investigators believe took place.
Investigators have said that Olivo-Tellez and Castillo were first in Denver the day of the homicide, Oct. 7, where Castillo purchased ammunition for a handgun. The two then drove to Glenwood and split up. Castillo went to a restaurant while Olivo-Tellez went to Salas-Jurado's apartment and shot her multiple times in the abdomen and face, according to investigators.
Prosecutors showed graphic video of the crime scene, showing Salas-Jurado's body lying bloodied on the bedroom floor, empty shell casings on the ground and a child's snack and booster seat at the kitchen table.
Prior to the shooting, Olivo-Tellez was wanted in a domestic violence case from August, in which he was accused of hitting Salas-Jurado and bloodying her nose in front of their son, according to a warrant.
After the shooting, Olivo-Tellez took his 3-year-old son, who Sutton said was either in the apartment or in the building at the time of the killing, and threw the gun, ammunition and his cellphone in the Roaring Fork River, according to authorities.
Olivo-Tellez and Castillo withdrew about $1,000 from an ATM, drove to Grand Junction and attempted to convince a friend to get them a hotel room in the friend's name, said Sutton.
When the friend refused, they got a hotel under Castillo's name, but in the meantime they met with Olivo-Tellez's brother and sister-in-law, telling them that he had shot Salas-Jurado. The sister-in-law later alerted authorities to the homicide.
After being arrested in the hotel, Olivo-Tellez was interrogated in Grand Junction for several hours. At first he denied any involvement with Salas-Jurado's killing. But after being informed that Castillo might be charged with a crime, he confessed to the killing, said Sutton.
During that interrogation, Olivo-Tellez also said that he had been planning for about five days to kill Salas-Jurado, said the detective.
Sutton testified that he was present when Olivo-Tellez took investigators to Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs and pointed out exactly where he threw the gun, ammo and cellphone into the river. The gun and ammo were later recovered by a Summit County dive team, though the cellphone was never found, said Sutton.
During the preliminary hearing, defense attorney Garth McCarty honed in on the prosecution's heavy reliance on hearsay evidence and lack of physical evidence tying Olivo-Tellez to the crime scene.
But Neiley found that what prosecutors did present, including testimony about the confession and that Olivo-Tellez led investigators to the discarded weapon, as persuasive enough for the purposes of the hearing.
The motive in this case has been somewhat unclear; however, Sutton's testimony indicated the former couple's troubled relationship and custody issues played into the homicide.
Castillo told police about Olivo-Tellez and Salas-Jurado having a bad relationship and that their son was the primary reason they stayed in touch, he said.
As far as his own reasoning for killing his wife, Olivo-Tellez said during the interrogation that "he was burning inside and that he didn't have a life," said Sutton.
The defendant's confession, of course, played a big part in the hearing. But McCarty took issue with the way it was presented to the court. Sutton testified that Olivo-Tellez had confessed during interrogation, but the detective wasn't at that interrogation. Rather, he had watched a video recording of the interrogation, which occurred in Grand Junction, where Olivo-Tellez spoke via an interpreter.
Neiley said that viewing the confession through video did not make it hearsay. But in a trial, the prosecution would be required to go the extra mile and prove the interpreter's qualifications and reliability, said Neiley.
For the purposes of the preliminary hearing, Sutton's testimony was enough.