South Bay woman accused of killing friend also faces endangerment charge

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Investigators work in the overgrown Chula Vista field where a young woman was found killed in August. Now a longtime friend has been arrested in the investigation, and she also faces child endangerment charges from an unrelated incident, authorities say.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (CNS) – A woman who was arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the shooting death of a woman in Chula Vista pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a child endangerment charge, while the murder case against her remains pending.

Vanesa Gastellu, 28, was arrested last week on suspicion of killing 23- year-old Christina Garcia, whose body was discovered around 6:30 a.m. Aug. 5 by a person walking a trail in a brushy field behind a Smart & Final store in the 3100 block of Main Street, Chula Vista police Lt. Miriam Foxx said.

Gastellu was arraigned Wednesday morning, but not in connection with Garcia’s killing, as the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said the murder case remains under review.

Foxx did not disclose a suspected motive in the slaying, nor how investigators identified Gastellu as a suspect. She was arrested Oct. 20 by Chula Vista police, with assistance from the U.S. Marshal’s San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Members of Garcia’s family told FOX 5 that Gastellu and Garcia were friends who attended school together.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Rhoads told a judge Wednesday that there was reason to believe Gastellu is a flight risk. The prosecutor said the defendant has ties to Georgia and Mexico and allegedly made statements that she would flee the state if she got out of custody.

Defense attorney Christine Basic argued there wasn’t any evidence corroborating that she made such statements.

The child endangerment charge stems from a July 29 incident, in which Gastellu allegedly brought her infant daughter to a hospital, where the child tested positive for amphetamines, according to Rhoads.

Basic said Child Protective Services closed its investigation into the incident in September.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Garry Haehnle set bail at $175,000. Gastellu’s next court date is a bail review hearing, slated for next Monday.

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