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Man pleads guilty to 2019 death of model found in concrete

A 49-year-old man has pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping charges in the 2019 killing of a model whose body was found in the desert encased in concrete.

Prosecutors have accused Christopher Prestipino and his roommate, 43-year-old Casandra Garrett, of taking extensive measures to hide the body of 24-year-old Esmeralda Gonzalez after killing her “with a poisonous substance and/or by strangulation.”

On Monday, Prestipino pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping and second-degree murder by entering what is known as an Alford plea, meaning he admitted only that prosecutors had enough evidence to prove he is guilty.

Craig Mueller, Prestipino’s defense attorney, said the trial was set to last three weeks before the defense and prosecutors reached a plea deal.

“He didn’t want to risk a life sentence,” Mueller said about why his client pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors have written in court papers that Prestipino strangled Gonzalez and injected her with pool cleaner.

Gonzalez’s brother reported her missing on May 31, 2019. She worked in the adult entertainment industry, had more than 300,000 followers on Instagram and lived about one-tenth of a mile from Prestipino’s home, near Blue Diamond and Fort Apache roads.

Residential surveillance footage captured Gonzalez wandering the 9000 block of West Torino Avenue near Garrett and Prestipino’s home during the predawn hours of May 31, 2019. She was without her cellphone or keys and appeared disoriented, police have said.

Prosecutors have said that, according to a witness, Prestipino gave Gonzalez methamphetamine at his home. Prestipino is accused of tying Gonzalez up in his bedroom and strangling her.

Her body was found on Oct. 8 in a desert area and inside a 250-gallon water tank that had been covered with concrete and wood, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas near Glendale, according to court records. The Clark County coroner’s office ultimately could not determine her cause of death.

Another woman, Lisa Mort, also faced a charge of harboring, concealing or aiding a felon in connection with the killing. While jailed on unrelated drug charges, Mort reportedly tried to warn Prestipino that homicide detectives were investigating Gonzalez’s death.

In February 2020, Mort cut a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to accessory to murder in exchange for prosecutors dropping the drug charges against her. She was sentenced in 2020 to between two and five years in prison.

Like Prestipino, Garrett was indicted in 2019 on murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors filed an amended indictment in February 2021 charging Garrett with voluntary manslaughter, a day after documents in the case were filed under seal, court records show.

A sentencing hearing for Garrett has been scheduled for May 2, court records show.

Prestipino is set to be sentenced on April 25.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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