Visalia youth strangled by stepfather, police say


A Visalia police detective testified on Monday, Dec. 16, at a preliminary hearing that Dameian “Luke” Gulley, 14, was strangled by his stepfather Miguel Villegas Pacheco. Pacheco, 32, of Visalia is being tried on first-degree murder charges in connection with the case.

The Visalia teen’s body was discovered November 21 near Buckeye Flat Road in the Hospital Rock area of Sequoia National Park four days after he was reported missing. A videotape at the Ash Mountain entrance station recorded the stepfather’s minivan entering the park late at night.

Deputy Public Defender Roland Soltez argued at the hearing that the attack occurred during a spontaneous fight. Pacheco told his interrogators that during the struggle in Luke’s bedroom he reached for an electrical cord and wrapped it around the teen’s neck.

Detective Scott Nelson testified that when asked why he wrapped the cord around Luke’s neck, Pacheco answered, “To kill him, I guess.” 

If convicted of murder in the first degree, Pacheco could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Soltez described Pacheco as “incredibly remorseful.” 

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