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Dark prediction came true

Romance with older man ended in tragedy for 23-year-old

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Catherine Gastador predicted her secret romance with an older man would end in violence. And that's exactly what happened when the 23-year-old woman was found strangled and stabbed to death inside her Wolseley apartment.

Court documents obtained by the Free Press paint a troubling picture of the rocky relationship between Gastador and Mario Valdez, the 39-year-old brother of her adoptive mother who has now admitted to killing her in 2010.

Valdez pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Monday and was given a 13-year sentence under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. He claims he killed Gastador after she refused his demands for sex following a night of drinking.

Valdez pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of obstruction of justice and was given three years, in addition to 10 years for manslaughter.

"The facts here are extremely disturbing," said Queen's Bench Justice Deborah McCawley. The Crown dropped a more serious charge of second-degree murder, citing the "circumstantial" case they had against Valdez and his extreme intoxication at the time of the slaying as factors.

Valdez had been dating Gastador for several years without the knowledge of other family members, court was told. In 2007, Gastador obtained a restraining order against Valdez. She cited a series of violent incidents that left her fearing for her safety in a case that was eventually red-flagged by justice officials and referred to a provincial victim's services agency for investigation.

"I am concerned that he is able to use anything around him as a weapon. Especially if he had been drinking," Gastador wrote in her affidavit to a provincial magistrate. "I truly fear him. He is very violent, he has no respect for any of the family members... and he does not fear anyone. He has emotionally and physically hurt me and I want it to stop."

Gastador filed another affidavit months later in which she seemed to recant her earlier statements. "It was a mistake. I was also a bit intoxicated and I've recently learned that I too become a bit violent when I've had a few to drink. I believe that he was just holding me down from making violent moves towards him," she wrote. "I feel awful and greedy to be fully blaming him for what was my fault also. He is my favourite uncle. He is a very giving and generous family member. I do not feel a threat coming from him anymore because now I understand that it is ME that needs to control my alcohol consumption. I need to learn to only drink what I can handle."

On the night of the killing, Valdez had been out drinking when he sent Gastador a series of sexually-explicit texts. She refused his demands, ending her final note to him by calling him a "loser."

Valdez then went to her apartment -- he lived in the same building two floors down -- and killed Gastador before launching a detailed plan to cover up his involvement, court was told. Valdez sent further text messages to Gastador after she was dead, telling her he was at his other residence across the city. Police ultimately broke the case open by tracing Valdez's movements through cell-tower information.

Valdez got his 14-year-old son and a nephew to lie to police about his whereabouts, then had them moved to Vancouver so they wouldn't appear in court to testify against him at his preliminary hearing.

Gastador was studying to advance her career in law and began working at Fillmore Riley in early 2010 as a legal assistant.

"I'm thinking she got brainwashed," Ed Gastador told the Free Press of his daughter's relationship with Valdez. They adopted Gastador as a baby in the Philippines and brought her to Canada at the age of eight.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 B1

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