RIDGELAND, SC (April 25, 2018) – A Jasper County man has been sentenced to 37 years in prison for strangling his girlfriend during a fight over photos found on his cellphone.
Samuel Gonzalez was found guilty of murder by a Jasper County General Sessions Court jury on Wednesday after two days of testimony. The jury of eight men and four women could have convicted Gonzalez of manslaughter, a lesser charge, but needed just 17 minutes to find him guilty of murder.
Gonzalez killed Marycruz Casillas Sotelo, his girlfriend and the mother of the couple’s 3-month-old child, in August 2016.
“This was a brutal domestic homicide,” said Hunter Swanson of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “He has shown no remorse and has forever torn the fabric of Marycruz’s family.”
Authorities were alerted to the crime Aug. 8, 2016, by Gonzalez’s co-worker, who said Gonzalez called to tell him he wouldn’t be at work that day because he had killed his girlfriend the night before.
When law enforcement arrived at the couple’s home on Honey Lane, just outside Hardeeville city limits, Gonzalez was waiting for them on his porch. Inside, they found Sotelo’s dead body on a living room couch, covered in several towels and a Dallas Cowboys blanket.
Gonzalez told a Spanish-speaking investigator that the couple had been fighting for a few days over photos of an old girlfriend that Sotelo found on Gonzalez’s cellphone. In a statement written in Spanish, Gonzalez also told authorities that on the night of Sotelo’s death, the argument became heated and that he head-butted her when she came at him. Sotelo fell to the couch, and Gonzalez got on top of her, grabbing her throat. After a while, Gonzalez told investigators, he realized his girlfriend was no longer fighting back and was dead.
Gonzalez told authorities that after realizing what he had done, he tried to hang himself, however, the rope he threw over a tree limb outside the home snapped.
Gonzalez who was denied bond and has been on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold since his arrest, is likely to be deported after serving his sentence.
Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith handed down the sentence.
Swanson is the leader of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit, formed in late 2017 to specialize in the prosecution of domestic violence and criminal sexual assault.