After a monthslong manhunt, officers have arrested a man suspected in the 2021 killing of Gaby Sifuentes Castilla, better known as Gaby Ramos, a beloved radio host for a Utah Spanish-language station.
Sifuentes, 38, was fatally shot in Taylorsville on Oct. 17, 2021. On Thanksgiving of this year, police apprehended a man in Mexico who fled the county following the death of Sifuentes. Manuel Omar Burciaga-Perea, 35, was arrested in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Burciaga-Perea, Sifuentes' ex-boyfriend, is charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and accused of shooting her at close range. Sifuentes was shot seven times in the chest, arm and head, according to charging documents filed in November 2021. She died of wounds at her sister's home near 2300 West and 5200 South despite the efforts of first responders. Burciaga-Perea and Sifuentes had been in a relationship but were not together at the time of her death.
Sifuentes' sister, Rocio Sifuentes, said she couldn't believe it when her family heard that he had been arrested.
"I was in shock, then I was crying, I was like finally, finally, they got him," she said Friday.
Taylorsville police determined that Burciaga-Perea fled to his hometown in Chihuahua, Mexico, after the killing. The police department did not have the authority to detain Burciaga-Perea because of his status as a Mexican citizen, prompting international collaboration between Taylorsville police; the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office; the U.S. Marshals Service in Utah; the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington; the Mexican State Attorney General's Office; and federal court in Mexico to execute a warrant for Burciaga-Perea's arrest.
"This could not have happened without the teamwork, perseverance and cooperation between offices," Taylorsville Police Chief Brady Cottam said in a statement. "The process was tedious and painstaking, but we are grateful for this significant step toward resolution and justice."
Burciaga-Perea will be held with the Federal Justice Center in Mexico, pending an extradition hearing based on the National Code of Criminal Procedures, police say.
Sifuentes, a well-known member of Utah's Hispanic community, hosted the radio show "La Neta del Planeta," or "The Truth of the Planet," on La Mas Picosita (KMRI 1550 AM).
"I wish that my sister was alive," Rocio Sifuentes told reporters last year. "She was a lovely woman. Really brave."
Taylorsville police were dispatched to a verbal domestic argument at 5222 S. Autumn Park Drive (2310 West) about 1:20 a.m. on that day. Sifuentes' family members said Burciaga-Perea had come over to confront his former girlfriend about an engagement ring. Burciaga-Perea forced his way into the house to grab the ring from Sifuentes' room before leaving, according to charging documents.
The family called 911 again about 15 minutes later to report that Burciaga-Perea had returned. As Sifuentes' sister was talking to a 911 dispatcher, Sifuentes opened the front door where Burciaga-Perea pointed a gun directly at her and shot her, the charges state. Burciaga-Perea then allegedly pointed the gun at the woman's sister after she ran to help, forcing her to retreat. Sifuentes' 9-year-old daughter was in the home at the time of the shooting.
Investigators said Burciaga-Perea immediately turned off his phone following the killing and never turned it back on. However, his Facebook messenger was accessed the next day from Chihuahua, Mexico, according to the charges.
In addition to aggravated murder, Burciaga-Perea is also charged with aggravated burglary, a lfirst-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; plus aggravated assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child. third-degree felonies.
Sifuentes' family has spoken out since her death about the importance of domestic violence awareness.
"Please, if you are in or know anyone that is in a domestic situation that has been or may become violent do not stay silent. You are important. You are needed. You are loved. There are resources available and people that care and will listen and help," the campaign states.
"She's going to send a message for a lot of girls. We have to take this bad situation and make it something good," said Juan Hernandez, Sifuentes' brother-in-law.
Domestic violence resources
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah's confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
- YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah's statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Contributing: Ayanna Likens