Life in prison. That’s the sentence that the Argentine justice system has just handed down to Nahir Galarza, the 19-year-old woman who shot her boyfriend Fernando Pastorizzo twice on December 29.
The court that tried the case – located in Gualeguaychú, in Entre Ríos province, north of Buenos Aires – ruled that Galarza meant to kill her partner, and that what happened was no accident, as the defendant had claimed during the trial. “These were intentional and aimed shots,” the court stated as the verdict was read out, finding Galarza guilty of murder.
She got on Pastorizzo’s motorbike and shortly after they set off, fired the gun at the young man
The crime shocked the residents of this small city that borders Uruguay and is famous for its carnivals. Galarza and Pastorizzo had a big argument just before Christmas last year, and several days later the young woman called her boyfriend and arranged to meet with him in the evening. Galarza arrived at the date with the service weapon of her father, who is a policeman. She got on Pastorizzo’s motorbike and shortly after they set off, fired the gun at the young man. “The second shot was from the front,” when Pastorizzo was already injured, the court stated in its ruling.
During the trial, Galarza claimed to be a victim of gender violence, and accused Pastorizzo of beating her. But the courts found that there was no evidence of such abuse, and rejected the defense attorneys’ arguments that this should be considered an extenuating circumstance. One of the most compromising moments for the defendant during the trial was when she stated that she didn’t call an ambulance, nor tell anyone else what had happened, because “being injured does not mean that you are going to die.” It was a nearby resident who eventually raised the alarm, but Pastorizzo died before reaching the hospital.
“It never even crossed my mind that he was going to die,” Galarza told the court during the trial. “I found out when his mom called me. My heart stopped, because she was calling me. That was when I found out what had happened. She asked me if I had been with him and she told me that he had died.”
It never even crossed my mind that he was going to die
Nahir Galarza during the trial
That same day, Galarza showed up at a police station and admitted that she had killed him using her father’s service weapon, but by the time she appeared in court, she had changed her story.
During the trial she claimed that Pastorizzo had the gun concealed under his clothes, after having taken it from her house when he came to pick her up. She said that both of them fell off the motorbike to the ground, which is when the gun went off for the first time. She then claimed to have picked up the weapon and heard it go off again. The judges did not believe her story. Evidence given by a ballistics expert was key to the trial, given that he denied any possibility of two accidental discharges.
The security cameras in the neighborhood where the shooting took place also were of no help to Galarza, as she was recorded walking home at a normal pace, and not in the state of shock and confusion that she claimed to have been in after the events she described to the court. Another piece of evidence used in court was a photo she posted on Instagram the morning after of herself and the victim, with the text “I’ll love you forever my angel.”
We got to the truth and justice was done. She will have to pay for what she did
The victim’s mother, Silvia Mantegazza
“Justice has won the day,” the father of the victim, Gustavo Pastorizzo, told reporters on leaving the court. His mother, Silvia Mantegazza, tearfully thanked residents of Gualeguaychú for the support they had shown the family over recent months. “I’m at peace and I am calm,” she said, breaking her silence for the first time. “We got to the truth and justice was done. She will have to pay for what she did.” Mantegazza added that the worst was yet to come for the family, as they will start to grieve now that the trial is over.
The Pastorizzo family views the sentence as an act of justice for the memory of their son. The Galarza family, meanwhile, even went so far as to hire a PR expert, who was in charge of contact with the press, to clean up their daughter’s image. For months, this person shared private messages between the couple with the media, messages that he said proved that the young man was violent.
He also tried to prove that his client and the victim were not sentimentally involved, and that they just had occasional sexual relations. The goal was to counter any aggravating circumstance that could have justified life imprisonment. But the judges rejected these arguments one by one in their decision.
The ruling can still be appealed. One of Galarza’s lawyers, Horacio Dargainz, has voiced doubts over the speed with which the judges studied the evidence in the high-profile case. If higher courts confirm the sentence, Galarza will be able to apply for benefits after 35 years behind bars.
English version by Simon Hunter.