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Man Gets Life Without Parole for Killing Woman’s Husband in Westminster

Man Gets Life Without Parole for Killing Woman’s Husband in Westminster

File photo of a judge's gavel. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

8/11/2023

Updated: 8/17/2023

A 46-year-old man was sentenced on Aug. 11 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a woman’s husband in Westminster, California, so he and the woman could be together and cash in on the victim’s assets.
Robert Rafael Saavedra Gallardo was convicted on July 25 of murder with a special-circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain. Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes before reaching the verdict.
His co-defendant, Olga Vasquez-Collazos, 46, was convicted two years ago and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Jurors in that case rejected the special circumstance allegation.
Mr. Gallardo was convicted of killing 58-year-old Adrian Zapata, whose body was found in his apartment in the 15100 block of Brookhurst Street at about 10:35 a.m. on May 22, 2014.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Mr. Zapata’s son Renzo called Mr. Gallardo a “monster who had no regard for a human life.”
“He took my dad’s life in the most cowardly way possible, and has showed no remorse for his actions,” he said.
Mr. Zapata’s sister, Kathy Dierking, told the court her brother “was important to so may of us and our lives will never be the same without him.”
“I miss him so much, and am so grateful that justice has prevailed and that my brother will finally be able to rest in peace,” she said.
Mr. Gallardo and Ms. Vasquez-Collazos met in Peru and dated, but Ms. Vasquez-Collazos later got married to Mr. Zapata, who met her while he was vacationing in Peru, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Janine Madera. Mr. Zapata, who had emigrated to the United States and became a citizen, married Ms. Vasquez-Collazos in 2011.
Mr. Zapata arranged to have his wife and her two sons come live with him in Westminster in 2013, Madera said. Before the move, she lived in Mr. Zapata’s condo in Peru but carried on an affair with Mr. Gallardo.
In 2014, Ms. Vasquez-Collazos was diagnosed with cervical cancer and underwent surgery at the end of April, Ms. Madera said. Mr. Gallardo flew to the United States and got a hotel room in Santa Ana near the University of California-Irvine Medical Center, where Ms. Vasquez-Collazos was being treated, Ms. Madera said.
Ms. Vasquez-Collazos was disappointed that her husband was not as wealthy as she assumed, so he worked longer hours and bought her a car, Ms. Madera said.
Then, Mr. Zapata grew suspicious that his wife was having an affair, Ms. Madera said.
Mr. Gallardo and Ms. Vasquez-Collazos had been sending affectionate and at times explicit messages to each other through Skype and Facebook.
Mr. Zapata found a secret Facebook page that included photos of his wife with Mr. Gallardo, Ms. Madera said. At one point, Mr. Zapata called Mr. Gallardo and confronted him about the affair.
The defendants “conspired to murder him so they can be together,” Ms. Madera said.
But the “bonus” was getting the victim’s condo in Peru, an insurance policy and money from a 401K fund, which had “modest” value, Ms. Madera said.
Much of the evidence in the case focused on the tracking of “secret” cell phones the two used, Ms. Madera said.
Ms. Vasquez-Collazos “set up an alibi” for her as she went to the medical center on the day of the killing to get a note about her medical condition to give to her employer, and then went to a grocery store before she returned home to find the body, Ms. Madera said. She gave Mr. Gallardo a house key, and there were no signs of a break-in at the house, Ms. Madera alleged.
Mr. Zapata sustained two blows to the back of his head, fracturing his skull, and was stabbed four times in the neck, and three in the shoulder, Ms. Madera said.
Mr. Gallardo was accused of “staging the scene to look like a robbery,” with various items thrown around, but valuables such as a TV were not taken, Ms. Madera said.
For the next five days, Mr. Gallardo and Ms. Vasquez-Collazos did not communicate on the phone or through messages, Ms. Madera said. However, six days after the killing, the two checked into the same hotel in separate rooms, but Ms. Vasquez-Collazos went over to stay the night with Mr. Gallardo, prompting one of her sons to look for her, Ms. Madera said.
Mr. Gallardo’s attorney, Shannon Winston of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, argued during the trial that her client did not have any motive to kill Mr. Zapata because he was continuing his affair with Ms. Vasquez-Collazos unimpeded. The two could have gotten married before she met Mr. Zapata but did not, Ms. Winston said.
“He didn’t need to murder her husband,” Ms. Winston said.
Mr. Gallardo made no attempts to conceal his relationship with Ms. Vasquez-Collazos, Ms. Winston said. He introduced her to his friend as his girlfriend, the attorney said.
“So he’s not trying to cover anything up,” Ms. Winston said. “In no way is he trying to keep the relationship a secret.”
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