November 19, 2008 - 10:00 pm
Poker. Luxury condominiums. Hit men and murder. William Gustafik’s life and death read like a made-for-TV movie.
Gustafik was found dead at the Panorama Towers in April 2007. He had been stabbed more than a dozen times.
The chiropractor-turned-professional poker player was trying to live the high life in Las Vegas, according to his wife.
His wife, however, was accused of killing him. Jill Rockcastle, 50, claimed he had been physically abusing her, threatened to kill her and was unstable.
On Tuesday, Rockcastle was sentenced to life in prison for Gustafik’s fatal stabbing.
She will be eligible for parole after 10 years as a result of a plea to a second-degree murder charge.
In a rambling statement in District Judge Michael Villani’s courtroom, Rockcastle apologized profusely for the slaying.
She said through sobs that her husband was out of control and had been abusing illegal drugs and steroids. She stated that Gustafik had been physically abusing her and she was afraid he’d kill her.
“I love my husband. I’m not a violent person,” Rockcastle said. “I just lost control.”
She entered an Alford plea, meaning that she didn’t admit guilt but conceded that prosecutors could prove the case against her.
Just before the slaying, Gustafik, 44, was on a bed at the Panorama Towers and grabbed Rockcastle by the hair, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Joe Abood. She grabbed a knife that Gustafik had been using to open pornographic DVDs and stabbed him multiple times, Abood said.
Authorities believe she stabbed Gustafik 15 times.
“Mr. Gustafik was becoming violent and increasingly violent over time,” Abood said.
Deputy District Attorney Sam Bateman disputed Rockcastle’s claims.
“Dead men tell no tales,” Bateman said. “I can’t bring the victim in on this case to give his side of the story.”
He said there was no evidence Rockcastle suffered from battered woman syndrome, as represented by Abood. He said she had independent money sources, traveled back and forth between Las Vegas and California, was running a business for her husband and wasn’t controlled by him.
“This is a woman who was in complete control of her life,” Bateman said.
After the April 2007 slaying, Rockcastle fled to California. She eventually was found unconscious in a central California bed-and-breakfast, where she had tried to kill herself.
Gustafik was a corrections officer in California in the mid-1980s and later became a chiropractor in the state. Rockcastle met him in 2000. Gustafik had several chiropractic offices and was successful but wanted to pursue poker professionally, she stated in court documents.
In a 10-page suicide note, Rockcastle claimed that Gustafik hired a hit man in Las Vegas to kill his ex-wife so she wouldn’t file for custody of their daughter. She also stated in the letter that Gustafik was obsessed with his looks, took performance-enhancing drugs and used cocaine.
“He wanted to live the high roller’s life,” Rockcastle wrote. “Getting on TV was an obsession. He wanted to be recognized publicly.”
She stated that they both underwent plastic surgery and that she helped Gustafik live the high life.
Gustafik began to go through money quickly, she wrote. He was addicted to gambling but was spending more on trips and going out than he was making playing cards.
The couple began to scheme to sell fake real estate and other scams.
“We were living this fake life of millionaires. But we weren’t. We were going broke,” she wrote.
Contact reporter David Kihara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.