The Visalia man on trial for allegedly murdering his 14-year-old stepson displayed a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality, the boy’s great-aunt testified Wednesday.
Miguel Angel Villegas Pacheco, 35, is on trial for murder in the death of Dameian “Luke’’ Gulley, whose body was found Nov. 21, 2013, in Sequoia National Park a few days after he had been reported missing by his stepfather.
The body had been dumped and was partially covered. A dog of an off-duty park employee who was out hiking found the body.
Surveillance video from the park’s entry station showed Pacheco’s van entering and leaving the park in the middle of the night.
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At a preliminary hearing a few years ago, an officer testified that Pacheco admitted he strangled the boy with an electrical cord after getting angry at Luke for disobeying him when he stayed out and didn’t want to come home.
Katie Matthews of Kerman, the boy’s great-aunt, testified that Pacheco at first seemed like a good match for the boy’s mother and a good role model for Luke.
Why is he like this Jekyll and Hyde kind of person? It was like he made Luke an outcast.
Katie Matthews, great-aunt of Dameian “Luke” Gulley
His mother was 16 when Luke was born in Colorado, she said. A male relative gave him the nickname Luke after a “Stars Wars” character and he liked it, she said.
After Andrea Villegas and Pacheco, who usually goes by Villegas, were married and had two children of their own, he treated Luke differently than he treated his own children, she said.
“It was like Luke was not included in the four of them,” she said. “After his own biological children were born, there seemed to be a great divide.”
Under questioning by defense attorney Marcus Olmos, Matthews said she wondered to herself, “Why is he like this Jekyll and Hyde kind of person? It was like he made Luke an outcast.”
Luke’s perception of his place in the family took a nosedive, she said: “Once the other two kids came, he didn’t feel like he belonged to the family.”
When Pacheco phoned in the missing person report to Visalia police that Luke had gone to school but was reported absent, he told the dispatcher Luke had autism and was bipolar, according to a 911 tape played in court.
Before police reported the body had been found, Pacheco told reporters in an email that Luke had autism and needed medication.
But Matthews questioned whether Luke really had behavioral or mental health issues. “To me, he was a normal child until Miguel became involved with Andrea,” she said.
One day, Pacheco came to visit her, she said.
“He brought a book to my house and told me he (Luke) had all these behaviors” that were listed in the book such as Asperger’s syndrome, she said. She said he took Luke to counseling and Luke began taking medication.
She said Pacheco was too strict with Luke, making him do 400 situps for not making his bed, for instance.
At one point, he prohibited Luke from eating carbohydrates on the grounds that “they make him overactive,” she said. Luke once lifted his shirt and his bones showed under his skin, she said.
Beverly Murphy, a friend of Matthews who knew Luke, said she went to the Pacheco home after the body was found and caught Pacheco making an inconsistent statement.
Luke was reported to have gone to school, and Pacheco gave a description of his clothing to police – blue sweatshirt hoodie, shorts and black backpack with green and red stripes.
But Pacheco told her he had not seen him that morning and only heard him getting ready for school. When she asked how he knew what Luke was wearing, Pacheco said, “Oh, uh, I know he was wearing a hoodie and I just guessed on the other,” she said.
Officer Thomas Higgins testified he spoke to Pacheco after the missing person report was called in.
“He told me he had watched the juvenile leave the house that morning,” Higgins said.
Pacheco was arrested five days after Luke’s body was found. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison. His trial will resume Thursday morning.