SAN DIEGO — An 85-year-old man who gunned down his estranged wife in broad daylight in the Gaslamp District was sentenced Friday to 50 years to life in state prison.
Joseph Gotell was convicted last month of first-degree murder and gun charges in the May 14, 2011, death of his 57-year-old spouse Deborah.
Authorities said Gotell, then 83, confronted his wife near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway around 2:15 p.m. while she was running errands. He pulled out a .32-caliber handgun and shot her twice in the head and once in the right arm. She was declared brain-dead the next morning.
Judge Peter Deddeh said he was required by law to hand down the 50-year- to-life sentence, but would have sentenced Gotell to the term even if he had discretion to do so.
“This was a shocking, awful and premeditated murder,” Deddeh said.
The judge said the victim grew tired of the defendant’s desire to control her and tried to leave him, but he continued to stalk her. The couple had been married about five years.
Deddeh said the shooting also traumatized people who witnessed it on a Saturday afternoon.
Fatimah Collins, the victim’s oldest of four daughters, said in a letter that because of her mother’s murder, she can’t continue her work as a hospice nurse.
The victim’s ex-husband, Levandis Carter, said Gotell knew what he was doing when he pulled the trigger.
“Age had nothing to do with this, but hatred did,” Carter said.
Gotell’s attorney, Kathleen Lee, said her client had two strokes before the fatal shooting and suffers from dementia.
A witness testified at Gotell’s preliminary hearing in January that he was standing outside his workplace at the Se Hotel when he heard a loud “pop or bang,” then up to four more.
Gregory Bowler said he saw the defendant pointing a gun at a woman and firing. After the shooting, “he casually flipped his gun away,” Bowler said.
The witness said he ran to the victim, who still had smoke coming from a head wound. Bowler said he heard the defendant mutter, “That (expletive) bitch, I’ve been dealing with this for years.”
Carolyn Manigault testified that she saw Gotell shove his wife into a store window before shooting her.
Authorities said Gotell was quickly detained by two hotel security guards, who turned him over to a passing San Diego police officer.
The victim’s daughters said their mother had broken away several times from the defendant, but he kept showing up in places where he knew she would be.