Murder defendant’s brothers, psychiatrist testify in court
Defense attorneys for Gustavo Olivo-Tellez called on two of the defendant’s brothers, two of his friends and coworkers during the ninth day of trial where he faces a first-degree murder charge for shooting his estranged wife, Blanca Salas, to death in 2016.
Olivo-Tellez, 29, confessed to shooting Salas four times in her apartment Oct. 7, 2016. Prosecutors say he intended to shoot her, or committed murder after deliberation.
The defense team says he was there to confront Salas about sleeping with other men while they were separated, but he never intended to kill her. Rather, they say he became enraged at the scene, under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The jury has heard evidence of most facts of the crime and hints at potential motivation from the prosecution, but Monday featured detailed testimony about the defendant’s drug use and delusional and paranoid behavior.
A friend of Olivo-Tellez testified he accompanied Olivo-Tellez to confront Salas at her apartment months before the shooting.
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Olivo-Tellez was convinced Salas was entertaining a man at that moment, and tried to go in armed with a gun, though not the same black 9mm semi-automatic handgun eventually used in the shooting, the friend said.
The friend recalled taking the gun from Olivo-Tellez who was in a “moment of rage.” That friend said Olivo-Tellez told him about using meth, but he never saw it personally.
Another coworker said that when he first met Olivo-Tellez in 2014, he was “happy, responsible, hardworking,” but became “a completely different person” after he started drinking. The same friend testified he saw Olivo-Tellez use meth in a bathroom during work hours two days before Salas’ death.
“I saw smoke coming out of the bathroom,” said the coworker, who went to check it out.
A friend of Michelle Castillo, 25, sometimes-girlfriend to Olivo-Tellez and a co-defendant in the case, testified that she had seen Olivo-Tellez smoking methamphetamine — and had gotten high with him on four occasions. Olivo-Tellez sent her threatening messages on Facebook the night before the shooting, alleging she knew about Salas’ infidelity, she said.
The friend described instances of delusions, including a time when Olivo-Tellez believed a white truck was searching construction sites for him, when there were no cars around.
The two brothers who testified Monday worked at the same concrete construction company in the Denver area at the time of the shooting, and lived in the same house during the workweek.
The brother who owned the home said Gustavo appeared to be drinking heavily the week leading up to the Friday shooting.
As a supervisor, that brother also said he told Gustavo not to come to work the day of the shooting, either because he was drunk or high.
“I knew that he was not right, but I didn’t know what it was,” the brother said.
The other brother said Gustavo had shown him a picture, saying it was of Salas having sex with someone in a car. The brother said it was clearly not, that it was only a photo of a car, with sun glare on the windshield and no visible persons inside.
Both brothers who testified said they had not noticed any paranoia, as the defense team insists, and that they were not aware of his meth use. One brother did say that Gustavo appeared to have lost weight compared with three months prior to the shooting, and that he seemed “consumed by something,” which might have been methamphetamine.
Dr. Thomas Weir testified at length about his psychiatric evaluation of Olivo-Tellez, conducted in May 2018 after the defendant had entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He later withdrew the plea.
Weir said Olivo-Tellez clearly suffered from delusions, had “persistent depressive disorder,” was self-serving and manipulative, and was oriented to a “hedonistic lifestyle,” evidenced by years of drug and alcohol use. But Weir said he could not testify to the defendant’s mental state, or any degree of psychosis, at the time of the shooting.
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