Man convicted of murder in Glenwood Springs gets new trial

Charles Ashby
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

A Denver man convicted of murdering his wife in 2016 won himself a new trial, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, 37, was convicted in 2019 in the shooting death of Blanca Salas at her home near Glenwood Springs while the couple was separated.

He allegedly shot her twice in the face and twice in the abdomen, and then fled the scene with his then 3-year-old son.

Olivo-Tellez then confessed to his girlfriend that he had killed Salas, and disposed of the gun he used in the Roaring Fork River. After a six-hour interview, he also confessed to police, but the judge in the case, District Judge John Neiley, denied his attorney’s motion to have that confession suppressed on grounds that it was not voluntary.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed with the attorney and remanded the case for a new trial.

In it, Judge Terry Fox wrote that Homeland Security Agent Renzo Scavazzon, who isn’t an official court interpreter but who acted as a translator during police questioning, told Olivo-Tellez that the girlfriend could also be convicted in the crime, knowing that she was not a suspect.

“The video reveals that Scavazzon made an implied threat and promise that, considering the totality of the circumstance, overbore Olivo-Tellez’s will, rendering his subsequent statements inadmissible,” Fox wrote in the ruling, which was joined by Judges Rebecca Freyre and Christina Gomez.

“And because the state has not met its burden to show that the admission of those statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, particularly in the context of Olivo-Tellez’s heat of passion defense, we reverse his conviction and remand for a new trial,” Fox added.

According to the ruling, Olivo-Tellez believed that his wife was seeing someone else. He and the girlfriend, Michelle Castillo, were to go target shooting, but because of his immigration status, he could not purchase bullets for his gun, something he had Castillo do for him.

After the shooting, and abandoning his car in Rifle, he, Salas and the son all drove to Olivo-Tellez’s home in Grand Junction. He later was arrested in a nearby motel by the Grand Junction Police Department’s SWAT team.

Olivo-Tellez was charged with first-degree murder.

“At trial, he conceded that he had shot Salas, but he raised a voluntary intoxication defense based on alleged chronic methamphetamine and alcohol use,” Fox wrote in the ruling.

“He also tendered instructions on the lesser included offenses of second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide,” he added. “As to second-degree murder, he raised that additional defense of heat of passion, which he supported, in part, by testimony that just before he shot Salas, Salas called him a bad father and a drug addict, and questioned his manhood.”

The jury acquitted him on first-degree murder charges, but convicted him of second-degree murder, saying that they were rejecting his heat-of-passion defense.

He was sentenced to 48 years in prison, and currently is being held in the Crowley County Correctional Facility.

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