SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An 83-year-old man accused of fatally shooting his 57-
year-old estranged wife at point-blank range on a busy Gaslamp District street
last weekend pleaded not guilty today to a murder charge.
Joseph Gotell faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted. Judge David
Szumowski set the defendant’s bail at $1 million.
Deputy District Attorney C.J. Mody told the judge that the defendant
confronted Deborah Gotell about 2:15 p.m. Saturday near the corner of Fifth
Avenue and Broadway.
They argued, and Gotell pulled out a .32-caliber handgun and shot his
wife twice in the head and once in the right arm, the prosecutor alleged.
She was declared brain dead the next morning.
After the shooting, the defendant threw his gun about 10 feet away and
was quickly detained by two security guards, who turned him over to a passing
San Diego police officer, Mody said.
The prosecutor lost a bid to have the defendant held without bail.
“Ms. Gotell’s death was an absolute tragedy, but we are very lucky that
no one else was injured or hurt as a result of this shooting,’ the
prosecutor told reporters outside the courtroom.
Mody said the Gotells had separated after about five years of marriage.
Deborah Gotell was out running errands when she was confronted by her
estranged husband, the prosecutor said.
A motive for the shooting was not clear.
Police believe there were witnesses to the shooting, Mody said. Anyone
who may have witnessed the shooting or has surveillance video in the vicinity
should contact the District Attorney’s Office, he said.
Three of the victim’s adult daughters told reporters Tuesday that their
mother had broken away several times from the defendant, but he kept showing up
in places where he knew she would be.
The daughters said they felt guilty that they didn’t do more to help
their mother get away from their stepfather, saying they wanted to call
attention to domestic abuse and how victims can get help.
According to court records, Joseph Gotell had several liens and civil
judgments against him. He had also filed lawsuits in federal court, apparently
in response to being evicted.
A preliminary hearing was set for June 1.
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