SAN DIEGO — An 85-year-old man accused of gunning down his estranged wife in broad daylight in the Gaslamp District nearly two years ago must stand trial on murder and gun charges, a judge ruled today.
Joseph Gotell faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted in the death of 57-year-old Deborah Gotell, to whom he had been married for at least five years.
Authorities allege that Gotell confronted his wife about 2:15 p.m. on May 14, 2011, near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, while she was running errands. He allegedly 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.
Witness Gregory Bowler testified that he was standing outside his workplace at the Se Hotel when he heard a loud “pop or bang,” then up to four more.
Bowler said he saw the defendant pointing a gun at a woman and firing. After the shooting, “he (Gotell) 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 three adult daughters have said their mother had broken away several times from the defendant, but he kept showing up in places where he knew she would be.
Criminal proceedings against Gotell were suspended last year when defense attorney Kathleen Lee requested a mental competency evaluation.
Doctors deemed the defendant competent, but a second examination determined that Gotell was incompetent to stand trial. A third evaluation was ordered and Judge Peter Deddeh found that Gotell was competent to face the murder charges.
Deddeh ruled today that enough evidence was presented at Gotell’s preliminary hearing to order him to stand trial March 15. A readiness conference was set for Feb. 22.