Man sentenced for murder of decorated Army veteran

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SAN DIEGO — A man who fatally shot a decorated Army veteran and father of five during a confrontation near Old Town was sentenced Friday to 45 years to life in state prison.

Johnny Gastelum, 40, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Dec. 4, 2015, death of 35-year-old Lio Rutledge. Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel said a motive for the shooting was not clear.

Prosecutors said Gastelum has a 2008 conviction for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Rutledge’s aunt, who helped raise the victim, wrote a letter to the court, calling her nephew’s murder a “senseless and evil act.”

“My boy died alone on the street,” wrote Sylvia Lovato. “No one will ever recover from this.”

One of the victim’s sisters, Sylvia Howard, wrote in a letter that her brother enlisted in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in 2000 and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Rutledge received numerous medals for his service, his sister said.

Misty Blu Scott, who had two children by Rutledge, said her son told her that his father was “taken by evil.”

Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian called the case a “tragedy,” noting that Rutledge can never be replaced.

“For whatever reason, Mr. Gastelum decided to take somebody else’s life,” the judge said.

Police said Rutledge was walking to his living quarters at the VA Aspire Center about 10:20 p.m. in the 2200 block of San Diego Avenue when he was shot twice in an unprovoked attack and died at the scene.

Gastelum — who also lived in the area — fled the scene but was caught a half-block away after witnesses called police about a man with a gun.

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