Gallardo sentenced to life in prison for murder of girlfriend

Gallardo sentenced to life in prison for murder of girlfriend
47-year-old Juan Carlos Gallardo has been convicted of the 2017 murder of his girlfriend, 28-year-old Yvette Ellis. (Source: Lubbock Police)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Juan Carlos Gallardo has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 28-year-old Yvette Ellis.

Judge McClendon announced the sentencing Monday afternoon, after a week-long trial. A jury found Gallardo guilty of murder on Friday.

Witnesses For The Prosecution

As the sentencing phase of the trial began, a Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office jailer was called to testify. Prosecution offered a jail letter and video of a jail visit as evidence.

In the video, Gallardo is talking to a male about the prosecution planning on using songs that he recorded against him.

Prosecution called Juan’s son, Angel to speak.

Angel told the court his dad goes by the name J. C. Wicked and is part of a group called the Shadow Grinders.

The defense asked Angel if he had good relationship with his dad, and Angel described him as a working man; saying he spoiled his sons and took them on vacations, even buying him a car as a teenager.

The defense asked if Juan was a loving dad, Angel said yes.

Angel said his dad would spank them to punish them as kids, then as teenagers he made them do push-ups.

“Everyone’s making him seem like a monster... He’s not. He’s really not,” Angel said.

When asked “do you love your dad?” Angel answered: “yes I do.”

The State then called a Lubbock Sheriff’s Office street crimes unit deputy, who specializes in gang intelligence and documentation.

The deputy said 2 tattoos identify Gallardo as a gang member: an image on the stomach of “806” with the letters W and T, and an image of Texas with the words “Hub City” which he testified are strong indicators that someone is associated with the Tango Blast gang.

The prosecution said Gallardo has previously made a non-judicial self admission as being a member of a gang.

Gallardo was slowly shaking his head side to side as the deputy told the court he believes Gallardo is an active member of a criminal street gang.

The deputy added that the Tango Blast began as a prison gang only, but in recent years, they have noticed active members on the streets, saying DPS has identifed “West Texas” as one of the more violent gangs in the region.

The prosecution then presented for the court two songs.

Lyrics from the first song included: “I’m from that state where they shoot you in the face, Should’ve never f*** around in the first place”

One of the songs was titled “RIP”. Lyrics included:

“serial killer, a killer for the thriller”

“A gangster at heart”

“Too many f***** haters, I don’t feel the love”

“Time to treat em like a b****, they kissin the floor”

Lyrics also included “Semper Fi.” The deputy, who like Gallardo, is a Marine, said that is the Marines motto.

When the defense questioned the deputy, they asked him if it would surprise him that the songs were recorded over 10 years ago. He said no.

The defense also asked him if it would surprise him if the song “RIP” actually refers to their group being the best in the music game. He said that was possible.

In the jail visit recording, Gallardo said: “I didn’t even write that song.”

The State called an investigator for the DA’s office, Will Calfin, to the stand, who testified that Gallardo’s fingerprints were a match with those of a defendant in a domestic violence case from May 21, 2005, in which Gallardo got 12 month community supervision.

The State called Juanita Prieto, who was married to Gallardo in 1993. She told the court she met him in North Carolina where he was stationed with the Marines. They moved to Lubbock in 1996 and had 3 kids. They separated in 2013.

Prieto said Gallardo “ended up going with someone else”. She said he was verbally and physically abusive toward her. She said she was hit more than a few times. She also said the police were called to their residence multiple times and there were times that she requested charges not be filed due to fear of what’s might happen to her.

Prieto told the court Gallardo was “controlling.” He always wanted to know what time she was going to work or coming home. She thinks it was because of jealousy.

The Prosecutor ended by asking Prieto: “Do you recall telling a police detective that Yvette Ellis could have been you?”

“Yes,” she answered.

In their questioning, the defense asked if Gallardo was a good dad. She said yes, he was good with the kids.

Lastly, the State then read out loud letters from Ellis’ kids. One of the letters included a list of 20 things that they missed about their mother including the chicken she would cook for them, reading the Bible with her, her kisses, watching football games with her, and snuggling with her.

Witnesses For The Defense

The defense called a licensed counselor for Vet Star, Keith Rivers, who said Gallardo started attending seeking safety groups at the jail a few years ago.

Vet Star goes to the jail and provides these counseling treatments for vets. Rivers said it is voluntary for the inmates, and Gallardo has attended 75 or 80 groups (one per week).

Gallardo’s sister then took the stand.

“Hes a sweet guy...” Gallardo’s sister said. “He’s not a monster and he wouldn’t hurt anybody.”

“He really loved Yvette.”

The prosecutor questioned her saying they have heard testimony saying he’s a good, nice guy and also that he’s a violent guy, so which is he?

“He’s a gullible guy, he’s a nice guy,” she said. "He’s just a human being, just like you and I.” She mentioned their father was very controlling.

Closing Arguments

Attorney Barron Slack with the Prosecution said the facts of the case are very dark, adding what happened that night “can best he describes as an execution.” Gallardo shook his head slowly.

“As a result of his actions, 4 children must grow up knowing of their mother but not knowing her,” Slack said.

Prosecution asked that, in honor of Yvette Ellis, they give Gallardo a life sentence.

The defense stated the court had heard “that Juan Gallardo is a loving man and a loving father,” saying although he’s suffered from trauma, he’s worked on those issues in jail.

The defense argued Gallardo’s raising in a less than desirable home obviously affected him.

Judge McClendon then spoke, and acknowledged that gallardo’s son, Angel, was put in a very difficult situation and had to testify, putting evidence against his father, and Judge McClendon said he hates that for him.

“Quite often, we hear the phrase that what you see in public might not be what you see behind closed doors. We have a situation where, Mr Gallardo, where you have a very loving family,” Judge McClendon said, “Your family sees something in you, but Mrs. Ellis saw something different.”

Judge McClendon said the evidence tells a story of control and violence.

“The jury didn’t believe that you were negligent or reckless... they believe you did this intentionally,” Judge McClendon said, "You can shake your head and you can say no... the evidence was crystal clear. This was a murder. And it was a senseless murder.”

“I hope this sends a message to anybody out there that raises a hand to a lady. It’s unacceptable. And if it gets worse, the people of this community will not tolerate it. If it gets to the level of the facts in this case, I certainly won’t tolerate it,” Judge McClendon said.

Judge McClendon read the sentence of life in prison for Gallardo, Monday afternoon.

Further details on the full week of Gallardo’s trial can be found here: Juan Gallardo found guilty in murder of girlfriend, punishment to be determined on Monday

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