Stepfather Miguel Villegas confesses to Damiean "Luke" Gulley's murder, FBI says

In this case Soltesz said Villegas wanted the true details of the incident out in public.
December 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Detectives said during a police interview Miguel Villegas admitted that during a physical fight with his 14-year-old autistic stepson he grabbed an electrical cord and strangled him to death.

Miguel Villegas, 32, sat expressionless during a hearing for his murder trial. Villegas is facing one count of premeditated murder of his stepson, Damiean "Luke" Gulley.

"I think he's incredibly remorseful for the incident that happened I mean he didn't plan this this isn't something he thought about it when he got up that moment the circumstances just spiraled out of control that day," said Roland Soltesz, defense attorney.

Normally a preliminary hearing, which decides a person's official charges, happens months or even years after the crime. In this case Soltesz said Villegas wanted the true details of the incident out in public.

"I wanted his statements to come out about what really happened. There's so much guesswork and conjecture out there," Soltesz said.

Villegas initially reported his stepson missing on November 18th, after he told police he didn't show up to school that day.

Villegas admitted to police a week later that he killed Damiean the night before while the two were arguing. While Visalia police detective Scott Nelson was on the stand he described what Villegas told him about the fight during a police interview.

"He said Damiean was yelling and cussing at him, yelling I hate you and I want you to die," Nelson said.

Nelson testified Villegas told him their argument then turned physical, with Damiean hitting him and then the two wrestling with each other on the floor of Damiean's room.

At that point prosecutors say Villegas made the choice to kill his stepson.

"He said he took an electrical cord, wrapped it around Damiean's neck and began pulling," Nelson said.

Nelson testified that Villegas told him he strangled him for more than two minutes ultimately killing him. That night after his wife and two children were asleep Villegas told Nelson that he wrapped up Damiean Gulley, drove to Sequoia National Park, and dumped his body near Ash Mountain.

Prosecutors say Villegas' actions prove premeditated murder.

"In this case the actor had the time to think thru his actions of grabbing the cord and following thru with what he did," Dan Underwood, Tulare C.O. District Attorney's Office.

Miguel Villegas' defense attorney disagrees. He asked the judge to consider voluntary manslaughter.

"This whole incident happened during an argument between the two of them," Soltesz said.

Miguel Villegas will be back in court at the end of December to be arraigned on the murder charge.


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