Authorities believe a body found encased in a concrete and wooden structure in the Las Vegas desert is that of 24-year-old Esmeralda Gonzalez, court documents indicate.
Christopher Prestipino, 45, took extensive measures to hide the woman’s body after he strangled her and injected her with pool cleaner, Chief Deputy District Attorney Pamela Weckerly wrote in court papers obtained Wednesday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The prosecutor identified another suspect in the slaying as Cassandra Bascones, also known as Cassandra Garrett, Cassandra Tran and Nikki Hart. She is believed to have participated in the killing, but she had not been arrested as of Wednesday, authorities said.
“Prestipino rented a U-Haul, and the victim’s body was dumped in the desert,” the prosecutor wrote. “Prestipino and Garrett have been panicked because they left the rented U-Haul dolly at the body dump location.”
Gonzalez, who worked in the adult entertainment industry and had more than 300,000 followers on Instagram, lived about one-tenth of a mile from Prestipino. Her brother reported her missing May 31 after he had not seen her for a week, and after he found the lights inside her home still on with the front door unlocked.
“The house appeared ransacked,” Weckerly wrote.
Gonzalez suffered from mental illness and did not have her cellphone or key fob with her. Neighbors had reported seeing her walking around her community in high heels and lingerie, asking for a ride, the document states. A day earlier, a neighbor had driven her to a BMW dealership, where video surveillance showed that she was wearing the same outfit.
In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, she was captured on residential surveillance video trying to open the door to a home in the 9000 block of West Torino Avenue, less than two-tenths of a mile from Prestipino’s home.
“The occupants awoke and advised Esmeralda she was at the wrong house,” the prosecutor wrote. “Esmeralda’s gait was unsteady and she appeared disoriented.”
Tips lead to Prestipino
She turned west on Torino Avenue onto Market Height Street, which led toward Prestipino’s street, the document states.
In late July, homicide detectives received a tip that Prestipino might have killed Gonzalez.
Another tipster, interviewed by police, said Prestipino told a friend that “he killed the missing girl,” the prosecutor wrote.
“Esmeralda was at Christopher’s house, and he ended up getting her high on methamphetamine,” the witness told police, according to Weckerly. “Christopher was not aware of Esmeralda’s mental problems, and she started acting bizarre and speaking in the devil’s tongue.”
The prosecutor wrote that Gonzalez was at Prestipino’s residence at 9501 Iron Cactus Ave. and was “left tied up to a bedpost for an extended period of time” before she was killed. She had threatened to call police on Prestipino because of the drugs he had given her.
He untied her, and she punched him in the face, according to the document. That’s when he tried to strangle her. “He thought she was dead, but she woke up,” the document states. Investigators believe Gonzalez may have later been poisoned.
In early June, Prestipino called a family friend “because he needed help” moving a wooden box full of concrete into a U-Haul truck, according to the document.
“Chris was acting strange, and turned the radio up loud because he thought the FBI was listening,” the document states.
They tried unsuccessfully for hours to move the box, using a pallet jack and a cable puller, according to the document.
“Chris had taken a week off of work to deal with the situation and stated he was going to call someone from New York to help clean it up,” the document states.
There is no indication that authorities know how the concrete and wooden structure and body were transported to the desert, where they were found on Oct. 8.
Last month, homicide detectives interviewed Bascones in Milwaukee. She was “defensive, argumentative” and denied any knowledge of Gonzalez, according to the prosecution document.
Two days later, the detectives questioned a woman who has a child with Bascones’ ex-husband. Bascones had called the woman and told her she had been visited by police about the missing person investigation.
“Cassandra told her it may have been a sex fetish game that might have gone wrong,” the document states.
Recorded jail calls
At some point, Prestipino fled to Belize, the prosecutor wrote. He returned to Las Vegas on Friday, when he was arrested.
Prestipino faces charges of murder, first-degree kidnapping resulting in substantial bodily harm and conspiracy to commit murder. He is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center.
His 31-year-old girlfriend, Lisa Mort, another alleged co-conspirator, faces a charge of harboring, concealing or aiding a felon. Records show that she was arrested Aug. 27 in an unrelated drug case.
Weckerly wrote that Mort denied knowing anything about Gonzalez’s disappearance. But in recorded jail calls before Prestipino was arrested, he “warned her not to speak with anyone,” the prosecutor wrote. “He also directed her to wipe her phone.”
Five days before he returned to Las Vegas, he told her that “if everything’s cool,” he would come get her.
Authorities were still attempting to identify Gonzalez through DNA, according to the court brief.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Clark County coroner’s office had not officially identified the homicide victim.