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Woman may have received message on phone moments before being shot, warrant states

SALT LAKE CITY — Did a woman shot and killed in a Magna basement receive an unnerving message on her phone just moments before being attacked?

That's what investigators from the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office are trying to find out, according to a search warrant affidavit.

On July 16, 2017, Paige Espinoza, 25, was in a basement bedroom at 8360 W. Mix Ave. visiting her boyfriend when someone from outside the house fired at least 15 rounds into the room, striking Espinoza twice and killing her, according to charging documents.

Gino James Cecala, 46, of Salt Lake City, was charged with murder, a first-degree felony. He was arrested several months later in Texas.

According to a newly unsealed search warrant filed in 3rd District Court, Espinoza's boyfriend told police that "Espinoza was acting 'normal' and was clearly in a good mood on the night of her death. However, in the minutes before the shooting, he said she looked at her phone as if she had received a message and her demeanor changed. (He) said she got 'stone faced' and serious."

Detectives analyzed Espinoza's phone but could not find any incoming or outgoing texts during that time, the warrant states. The warrant was filed to search her social media apps, including Facebook messenger, to determine if she had received any threatening messages. Results of the search were pending Thursday.

Cecala is Espinoza's former boyfriend, the warrant states. Her current boyfriend told police "he and the victim had received numerous threats from Cecala stating he was going to kill them," the warrant affidavit states.

The Metro Gang Unit was made aware of these threats, according to the warrant.

"It is suspected that (the current boyfriend) was the person targeted in this incident and that Espinoza was shot simply because the shooter fired blindly through the basement window," the warrant states.

About one week prior to the shooting, the boyfriend "assaulted Cecala for calling him a 'snitch,'" an informant later told investigators, according to the warrant.

The same informant also claimed Cecala told her the boyfriend "is ‘done’, he's ‘done’!” the warrant states. The informant contends that Cecala even asked for help to "set up" the boyfriend to "get him," but the informant refused, the warrant states. Instead, the informant warned the boyfriend "to get a hotel and 'stay low' because Gino Cecala was going to kill him," according to the warrant.

Cecala's trial is scheduled to begin in April.