A Williams man who shot and killed his partner and her sister was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday.
Gustavo Espino, 61, pleaded guilty to both counts of second-degree murder at the Coconino County Superior Court after reaching a plea agreement in late December. Judge Ted Reed sentenced Espino to consecutive 12-and-a-half-year prison sentences for each count of second-degree murder in accordance with the plea agreement.
The total sentence amounts to 25 years, mitigated by 458 days of time served in custody. Reed ruled that probation is not appropriate because of the nature of Espino’s crimes.
“What happened in this case is an absolute tragedy,” Espino’s public defender Kara Sagi said.
Espino lived with his partner, 70-year-old Elaine Fann, and her sister, Vivien Scheuerman, 65, in the Red Lake area of Williams on Pine Road.
The defense described a toxic relationship between Espino and Sceuerman, and said the victim often directed racist remarks at Espino, who is Hispanic. Up until the night of the crime, Espino had let the racism “roll off his back,” according to the defense.
“Mr. Espino lived with her hatred for him,” Sagi said. “But he still doesn’t understand why he did what he did.”
The killings occurred during a physical altercation between Espino, Fann and Scheuerman. Both women were shot and killed after Fann attempted to defend her sister.
Espino made no attempts to justify the crime at the sentencing and apologized in front of the judge shortly before he received his sentencing.
“I’m not here to make any excuses because I lost my head that day,” Espino said. “I’m ashamed.”
Shortly after the killings, Espino fed the animals on the property before driving to the house of a Department of Public Safety trooper, where he confessed to killing both women. The trooper, who had known Espino prior to the incident, was in disbelief and thought Espino was “joking,” Sagi said.
Espino approached the trooper at 8:37 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2019, and told him "something to the effect of he couldn't take it anymore" and had killed the two sisters, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office reported.
The trooper detained Espino and called the sheriff's office afterward to report what Espino told him.
"A double homicide is rare, let alone a spontaneous utterance on a double homicide," Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jon Paxton said.
After entering the Pine Road home, deputies discovered the two sisters were dead and believed the victims had died from gunshot wounds. Both women were shot twice -- Fann in the chest and shoulder, and Scheuermann in the chest and heart.
The incident “shook the whole community,” the defense said. Espino had been a member of the community for about 20 years.
Sagi told the Arizona Daily Sun that she was relieved the case was resolved after pending for over a year.
"It’s an absolute tragedy what occurred in this case, so for it to finally resolve is a relief to everyone. We hope the victims’ family heard the sincerity in Mr. Espino’s voice when he delivered his apology in court today. He’s waited a long time to express his remorse," Sagi said.