A 33-year-old Beaverton, Ore., man was sentenced Friday to eight-and-a-half years in prison for the fatal stabbing of a Vancouver man in April 2012.
Miguel Angel Gonzalez pleaded guilty May 24 in Clark County Superior Court to first-degree manslaughter of Jose Luis Chavira-Cruz, 37, and dumping his remains in a remote area near Mount Hood. Prosecutors reduced the charge from first-degree murder as part of a plea agreement because police mistakes during the defendant’s interrogation threatened to derail the murder case.
Judge Robert Lewis sentenced Gonzalez to 102 months, the maximum allowable under the state’s sentencing guidelines, at the request of Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino. Gonzalez also will be required to serve three years of probation and return $4,000 he took from Chavira-Cruz’s fiancee.
“The state treats him as the one who stabbed Mr. Chavira-Cruz to death,” Gasperino told the judge. “Unfortunately, we had these issues, and we had to make this plea agreement as a result of that.”
Gonzalez’s attorney, Charles Buckley Jr., asked for the minimum sentence of 90 months based on his client’s lack of criminal history and cooperation in disclosing the location of the victim’s body.
After the sentencing, Chavira-Cruz’s fiancee, Lorena Rodriguez, left the courtroom and wept as the victim’s younger brother held her in his arms.
Rodriguez called the Hillsboro, Ore., Police Department and reported Chavira-Cruz missing on April 25, 2012, after a suspicious encounter with Gonzalez.
According to court records:
Rodriguez received a series of text messages April 14, 2012, from Chavira-Cruz’s phone number asking to borrow $4,000 to purchase a vehicle. One of the text messages instructed Rodriguez to give the money to Gonzalez. Rodriguez was suspicious because when she attempted to call Chavira-Cruz, he didn’t answer, and he had never sent her text messages in the past.
Nevertheless, she met Gonzalez the same day outside the Shute Park branch of the Hillsboro Public Library and gave him the money.
Chavira-Cruz’s pickup truck was found May 5, 2012, in a parking lot in Gresham, Ore. Inside, investigators found Chavira-Cruz’s blood and a shirt with stab slits in the chest area.
Five days later, Gonzalez was arrested in Roseville, Calif., on an outstanding warrant. Two of Chavira-Cruz’s debit cards were found among his belongings.
Hillsboro police detectives flew to California that same day to interrogate Gonzalez. He refused to cooperate for about an hour, then requested an attorney. After his request, but still without an attorney, the detectives continued to interrogate him, and that’s when he gushed his version of what happened:
He blamed the killing on a man named “Gordo,” which means “fat man” in Spanish. He said Gordo was Chavira-Cruz’s lover, and Gordo was mad because the victim had been unfaithful. When Gordo went to confront Chavira-Cruz at the victim’s Vancouver residence, Gonzalez said, he decided to tag along because he had his own grievance against Chavira-Cruz: He blamed the victim for getting him fired from his job. He said Gordo stabbed Chavira-Cruz twice as the victim was climbing into his truck.
However, investigators found hospital records showing that Gonzalez sought treatment for lacerations on his hands around the time of the stabbing, which, prosecutors said, suggests that Gonzalez stabbed the victim.
Gonzalez said he served as Gordo’s lookout while Gordo disposed of Chavira-Cruz’s body at a roadside in the remote Warm Springs Indian Reservation near Mount Hood. He then drew a map showing the Hillsboro detectives where they could find the body.
After Buckley argued that federal law requires police to stop questioning a defendant who requests an attorney, Judge Lewis agreed to suppress evidence related to the story of Gordo. Buckley also asked to suppress all evidence related to the victim’s remains. Without the confession, Buckley argued, investigators would not have known to compare the burned and unrecognizable human remains with Chavira-Cruz’s DNA and dental records.
“Unfortunately, we may not know the full story of what occurred or why, but we have a good idea, and we think this defendant should be held accountable,” Gasperino said.