Jury delivers reduced murder charge for Olivo-Tellez after Glenwood trial

A jury found Gustavo Olivo-Tellez guilty of second-degree murder Friday, for the death of his estranged wife Blanca Salas-Jurado in October 2016, thus avoiding a life sentence.

However, the jury in the Glenwood Springs murder trial also had to determine whether the shooting was by a “provoked and sudden heat of passion.” The verdict on that was “no.”

Jurors were released after closing arguments late Thursday, and began deliberations Friday morning. As a violent crime, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 48 years in prison and a minimum of eight. The court scheduled a half-day sentencing hearing for April 30.

Nine relatives and friends of Salas, known affectionately as “Chula,” which means “beautiful” in Spanish, came to hear the verdict just before 8 p.m. Friday.

For them, the second-degree murder conviction was nothing compared to the crime.

“It doesn’t come close to what he has taken away,” Karla Salas, the victim’s sister, said.

Salas was shot four times in the Pinon Pines apartment near Spring Valley which she shared with her sister and Olivo-Tellez’ son, then 3 years old, on Oct. 7, 2016.

She was shot once in the stomach, once the collarbone, and twice in the chin. Both Salas’ hands had gunshot wounds from apparently raising them in an attempt to defend herself, according to forensics testimony during 12-day trial.

Olivo-Tellez told police in his confession during the first interrogation after his arrest that he had removed his son from the apartment before he shot Salas.

Olivo-Tellez’ attorneys did not attempt to prove his innocence in the shooting, but argued that the defendant was not guilty of murder in the first degree because his abuse of multiple substances prevented him from forming deliberative intent for murder.

Karla, Salas’ sister, and Corina Person Minniti, a lifelong friend of the victim, said they thought the defense presented a false image of Chula.

“They almost ignored the fact that she was a person, a mother, a friend,” Karla said. During the trial, Olivo-Tellez’ attorney’s talked a great deal about the defendant’s belief that Salas was cheating on him.

The defense attorneys admitted that Olivo-Tellez’ suspicions of Salas were likely delusions attributable to the methamphetamine, but he believed them. There was no evidence presented at trial that Salas had been unfaithful to Olivo-Tellez while they were estranged.

Karla saw a double-standard. Olivo-Tellez was driven to murder because he believed Salas was sleeping with other men, “yet he had this relationship, openly, with Michelle Castillo.”

Castillo was a codefendant in Salas’ death, and pleaded guilty to accessory first-degree murder in 2017. She testified at the trial, in custody while serving a 16-year prison sentence with the Department of Corrections. On the day of the shooting, she picked up Olivo-Tellez from Denver, purchased ammunition that may have been used in the murder, met up with him after the shooting, and drove him to Grand Junction, with Salas’ son.

Now 5 years old, Salas’ son “misses his mother every day,” Karla said.

“Whether he is sad or hurt, the person he wishes he could tell was murdered. That relationship was torn,” Karla said.

The family will have the opportunity to speak at the sentencing hearing in April. Olivo-Tellez “is going to have the opportunity to walk away. She will never get that chance,” Person Minniti said.

Olivo-Tellez smiled after the trial adjourned, and Salas’s family was emotional. A few muttered insults in Spanish and English.

Attorneys for Olivo-Tellez and the 9th Judicial District declined to comment.

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