ROANOKE, Va. – Two men have pleaded out in a 2018 Roanoke murder case in which 22-year-old Michael Santamarina was shot and killed and 24-year-old Troy Gastelo was injured after also being shot.
Prosecutors said the incident was a drug deal gone wrong. The two victims were shot on Jan. 5 of last year while in a car outside a Burks Street apartment complex, and Santamarina was waiting to sell marijuana.
Commonwealth’s attorneys argued that two men, now-23-year-old Dejon White and now-20-year-old Monte Taylor, approached the car and shot the victims. Prosecutors said that because both men were involved, acting in a coordinated fashion, they’re both responsible for Santamarina’s death in the eyes of the law.
Evidence showed White shot Santamarina, who was in the driver’s seat of the car, in the head, and Taylor shot Gastelo, who was in the front passenger seat. A bullet is still lodged in Gastelo's spine.
White pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges in Santamarina’s death and is now serving 25 years in prison. After changing his plea to guilty, he received a life sentence, but had the rest suspended.
After four days of his trial, Taylor changed his plea to no contest, agreeing that the commonwealth had enough evidence to convict him. He pleaded to eight felonies that include first-degree murder.
Taylor is next due in court in June for a presentencing hearing.