ELKO – Almost five years after the murder of Stephanie Gonzalez, Eduardo Estrada-Puentes, 34, appeared in the new Elko Justice Courtroom on a charge of open murder for allegedly strangling his estranged wife.
Lidia Cortes, who has become a proponent against domestic violence in the time following her daughter’s death, was the first witness called to the stand.
Her testimony, and the three others following, allowed the prosecution – led by Chad Thompson and David Buchler – and the defense – of David Lockie and Sherburne Macfarlan – to attempt to establish the sequence of events occurring the morning of her death.
Cortes told the court the family had planned a trip to Wildhorse Reservoir but Gonzalez was not to accompany them.
Gonzalez, said Cortes, stayed at the family’s home that night. The next morning she had a bad feeling before Gonzalez left to go to the trailer she previously shared with Estrada-Puentes and their children to retrieve her work uniform.
Cortes said she never heard from her daughter again.
At that time, Gonzalez worked at Scoreboard Sports Bar & Restaurant.
Estrada-Puentes took the three children to Tucson, Arizona, where he was staying with family. They returned early on June 24.
Cortes explained to the court she became worried when her granddaughter D’Srey was crying in her car because she could not reach her mom.
It was already surprising Gonzalez let the child go with the family as she usually did not let any of them out of her sight, Cortes, her husband Crisoforo and D’Srey stated.
Cortes affirmed Gonzalez retrieved paperwork the same week to initiate her divorce with Estrada-Puentes.
However, a turning point came when Cortes described the days and weeks following the death of Gonzalez.
“All I told them was their mom wasn’t coming back,” she said to the attorneys.
After a brief recess, Cortes described how K’iawna, now 9, told her Gonzalez was dead and Estrada-Puentes killed her.
K’iawna told Cortes there was a lot of yelling in the trailer on Garcia Lane and her mom yelled, “No Eduardo, no.”
A couple of weeks later the young child drew pictures of her mother with a spot around her nose that was blood.
“My mom was very overprotective,” said D’Srey, 14, explaining she usually received a text from her mother every two hours while she was at the reservoir where water and all-terrain vehicles were.
“I didn’t get a text from her all day,” she said.
According to Free Press files, the amended criminal complaint on a charge of open murder was filed Sept. 27, 2011, and can include first-degree murder and all lesser included offenses.
According to NRS, sentencing for first-degree murder can include life without parole; life with a 20-year minimum for parole; or 50 years with a minimum of 20 years for parole.
Soon after the killing, Estrada-Puentes fled to Mexico.
With the help of the FBI and Mexican federal authorities, he was located and arrested in the State of Jalisco. Estrada-Puentes spent last year in custody in Mexico City, where he underwent extradition hearings.
The preliminary hearing under Justice of the Peace Mason Simons will last approximately two days, after which it will be determined if Estrada-Puentes should be bound over for trial.
More than two dozen witnesses are scheduled to testify, including family members and law enforcement.