The last person Gabriel Contreras ever talked to was Osvaldo Garcia-Alcaraz, a man he’d planned to drive to a club Jan. 13, 2012.
They were on the phone when Garcia-Alcaraz heard a gunshot.
The next morning, a Macon police officer patrolling in south Macon found the 23-year-old Contreras dead, lying in the road with several gunshot wounds.
His pants were around his ankles. His shirt and jacket were pulled up over his head. Frost was on the clothing.
Krystal Almaraz was 17 when she shot Contreras. She celebrated her 18th birthday three weeks ago while being held at the Bibb County jail.
Tuesday, she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Bibb County Superior Court. A judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison.
Although Contreras was known to carry a large amount of cash, none was found with his body. He’d been shot six times in the cheek, chest, pelvis and thigh, prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor said.
In that phone conversation with Garcia-Alcaraz, Contreras said he couldn’t find his keys. He accused another man and Almaraz of setting him up. Almaraz, Elihu Torrez and one other man were with Contreras while he was on the phone.
When police first talked with Almaraz, she admitted she’d been with Contreras, but she said three men in a black sport utility vehicle had shot him. Later, she told police the men had kidnapped her, tied her up and held her for six hours against her will, the prosecutor said.
Officers later heard that Almaraz was talking about Contreras’ killing at the Houston Road trailer park where she lived.
Interviewed again, Almaraz said she’d been raped by two Hispanic men at Contreras’ home on Zebulon Road, Malcor said. Although Contreras wasn’t involved in the attack, she alleged that he threatened her and her family if she said anything about it.
Almaraz told police that Torrez and another man named Corey Jackson were going to shoot Contreras in retaliation for the rape, but instead she took a gun from the men and shot him herself, Malcor said.
During their investigation, police found that Torrez had headed off to Mexico.
Jackson told police that Almaraz had a gun and shot Contreras after an argument in Spanish that he didn’t understand. She didn’t take the gun from anyone. Jackson said he and Torrez left in fear, Malcor said.
Police arrested Almaraz on Jan. 17. Four days later, they allowed her to visit with her family at the police department.
During that visit, Almaraz and her family spoke mostly in Spanish, but her brother told her in English that she needed to tell police that Contreras had raped her. Police were monitoring the visit.
Witness credibility concerns prompted the district attorney’s office to strike a plea deal with Almaraz’s lawyer that she’d plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for 20 years, the maximum penalty for the charge, Malcor said.
Contreras’ father, Ignacio Gomez, spoke at the Tuesday court hearing with the help of one of his son’s friends, who served as a translator.
He said his entire family has been hurt by his son’s death.
Gomez pleaded for justice and for the judge to impose the maximum penalty on Almaraz.
He said his son’s death and Almaraz’s punishment should be a lesson for young people.
Contreras’ friend also translated a letter written by Contreras’ mother, who lives in Mexico and was unable to attend the hearing.
“I don’t understand how people can be so cruel without heart and without feelings,” the friend read.
Contreras’ mother wrote that she was left without her son and would never see him or hear his laugh again.
Maria Contreras, the dead man’s aunt, also spoke in Spanish at the hearing, getting help from the translator.
She said her nephew had come to the United States intent on helping take care of his younger brothers.
“Unfortunately, somebody because of money took away his life,” she said. “Nothing will bring him back. The pain will always be with us.”
Almaraz, who has finished her junior year of high school, apologized to Contreras’ family before hearing her sentence.
“I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” she sobbed.
After issuing Almaraz’s sentence, Judge Howard Simms told the young woman, “You not only through your actions destroyed the lives of this family, but probably yours, too.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.