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May 02, 2023
Christopher Prestipino, 49 of Las Vegas, Nevada, entered an Alford plea last month, pleading guilty to first-degree kidnapping and second-degree murder in the death of 24-year-old Esmeralda Gonzalez in 2019.
Media outlets report that, according to Prestipino’s own LinkedIn profile, he had worked as a stagehand-audio visual technician at a hotel in Las Vegas since the late nineties. He has a criminal history peppered with drug-related charges, including the manufacture of methamphetamine. His girlfriend, Lisa Mort, who pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the crime and was sentenced to a 24 - 60 month prison stint. She has since been released. Prestipino, who pleaded guilty to avoid a life sentence, has been sentenced to 10 – 25 years behind bars.
Prestipino’s ex-roommate Casandra Garrett, 40, known by several aliases including Casandra Tran, Casandra Winn, Casandra Bascones, and Nikki Hart, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree kidnapping, and murder, and will be sentenced in May.
Esmeralda Gonzalez, a college student at UNLV and Instagram model who had a following of over 300, 000 on social media, went missing in May of 2019. The victim was reported missing by her brother, Juan Gonzalez-Madera, on May 31, 2019, and footage from the area of the nine thousand block of West Torino Avenue, where Prestipino resided, showed the victim wandering in a state of confusion during the early hours that same day. Media outlets reported that she was walking around in lingerie and heels, asking people for a ride, and attempting to an enter a home that she was told by the residents was not the property she was looking for.
Gonzalez did not take her cell phone with her, nor her car keys and there was no activity on her bank account for months after she went missing. Gonzalez’s concerned brother described her as being in a vulnerable state and was suffering from mental health issues at the time.
On July 18, 2019, an anonymous tip was called in to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department accusing Christopher Prestipino and his ex-roommate, Casandra Garrett, of murdering Esmeralda Gonzalez, whom the tipster said had been hired as a prostitute by Prestipino at around 2:30am on the night she went missing.
The tipster detailed, in a redacted affidavit, that Gonzalez was tied to a bedpost against her will for an extended period of time, before being injected with pool cleaner, which killed her, because her captors were concerned that she would file a report against them to the police. After killing Gonzalez, the caller claimed that Prestipino rented a U-Haul, which he then drove out to the desert in order to dump the victim's body. Prestipino accidentally left the U-Haul Dolly at the scene of the disposal site, a factor that had been causing him excessive stress for fear the body would be linked back to him.
Detectives identified both Prestipino and Garrett and contacted U-Haul to see if any rentals had been made under either name. U-Haul confirmed that Prestipino had rented a 15' U-Haul moving truck and storage at 8620 Las Vegas Boulevard South. The truck was rented for around two days, picked up on June 08, 2019, and returned on the night of June 10, 2019.
Detectives also discovered that Prestipino and Gonzalez practically lived on the same block.
Further investigation obtained from interviews revealed that Gonzalez had ended up in Prestipino’s house on the night she went missing and he had “gotten her high on methamphetamine.” According to the interviewee, referred to in a continuation report document as Tricia, Gonzalez then became upset that Prestipino had gotten her high and “started acting bizarre and speaking in the devil’s tongue.” The victim was upset and said she was going to report Prestipino to the police, in response he tied her up against her will. When he later went to untie her, the interviewee said Gonzalez punched Prestipino in the face, and Prestipino strangled her. He believed that he had killed her, however, she later regained consciousness. To finish the job, Prestipino, and Garett, his ex-housemate, injected the victim with pool cleaner, ultimately killing the young woman.
A freezer that was taped shut, as well as a cement mixer were allegedly transported in the U-Haul rented by Prestipino and footage from a Home Depot revealed that he had purchased various tools as well as five 60-pound bags of Quickrete concrete mix which he paid for in cash on June 06, 2019.
He went back to the Home Depot the following day on June 07 for additional items, including a Rigid Drill and concrete mixing paddle.
The body of Esmeralda Gonzalez was discovered in the desert North of Las Vegas on October 8, 2019, several months after she had been reported missing.
Her remains were found encased in concrete in a plastic tub with a wooden structure around it.
Extensive forensic work was performed to identify the victim’s remains, a process using bone samples and comparing them to that of the victim’s parents, revealing a match.
Jewellery items found near the body, including a Rolex watch and a Chanel necklace, were also confirmed as belonging to Gonzalez.
Prestipino was arrested at the terminal gate of the airport on October 11, 2019, when he returned to Las Vegas on a flight from Belize.
Prestipino apologized in court and attempted to shift the blame to Garrett, saying: “My involvement was after the fact. I don’t believe this death was intentional, but like the medical examiner, I still don’t know the exact cause of death. I do regret ever meeting the co-defendant."
Friends and loved ones testified to Esmeralda Gonzalez’ caring and sweet personality.
Juan Gonzalez-Madera said of his sister in court: “Learning that my sister was deceased deeply bruised my heart but learning how she died shattered my heart forever. I now live in a world where I only get to see my sister alive when I dream at night and relive the nightmare of her death when I wake up in the morning.”