Woman who killed boyfriend in 2012 fire sentenced to serve 60 years
It's been more than seven years since Gina Virgilio doused the couch her boyfriend was sleeping on with gasoline and set it on fire — a crime that placed her at the defense table in an Anchorage courtroom earlier this month as sentencing in the case began.
Just before Virgilio’s murder and arson trial in the death of Michael Gonzalez was about to start, the state Department of Law announced she had taken a plea agreement.
“It was announced prior to jury selection that Virgilio would accept an agreement with the State where she would plead guilty to murder in the first degree with sentencing to be decided by the judge,” state officials wrote in a news release.
In the early morning hours of June 8, 2012, the fire inside the apartment building at 201 McCarrey St. forced the evacuation of 18 other units, according to a statement from police at the time. Some of the individuals required medical attention for smoke inhalation.
Gonzalez's body was discovered in the apartment he shared with Virgilio the day after his 24th birthday.
According to DOL, Virgilio originally told police that Gonzalez had started the blaze that killed him.
Investigators later learned that Virgilio had given a different account to staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center’s emergency room of the moments leading up to the blaze. Her mother, Michelle Virgilio, who described her as a heroin and methamphetamine addict, then asked to speak with detectives.
“Michelle told investigators that when Gina had returned home, she had confronted her,” state officials wrote. “Michelle reported that Gina confessed that she had gone to the [gas] station and obtained gas. Gina walked back to the apartment where [Gonzalez] was asleep on the couch. Gina then poured gas on and around the couch where [Gonzalez] was sleeping. Gina was at the front door when she lit some paper on fire and tossed it into the apartment.”
Gina Virgilio remained just long enough to see the gas ignite and Gonzalez awaken, prosecutors said, before she closed the apartment’s door and left.
"After the fire was set, she made an utterance that Michael had jumped up and said, 'hot, hot,' as he ran through the flames," APD detective Walter Gilmour testified Friday.
The Gonzalez family was present in a packed gallery and participated in victim impact statements as part of the sentencing on Friday, Oct. 4.
"I replayed that in my mind over and over, my baby brother telling you it's hot and you turned around and you left him there, you didn't give him a chance. You were so heartless, it was cruel to torture him in that manner," Trisha Gonzalez told Virgilio.
Virgilio appeared emotional throughout the hearing, at times holding her head in her hands and crying. At one point, she slumped over the desk with her head down.
Sentencing continued on Monday, Oct. 14 in front of Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton.
"Miss Virgilio is not a monster. She did a horrific, horrific thing. And my job, I’ve always told people, would be so much easier if I just got to sentence monsters. Wouldn’t that be easy," Wolverton said. "When you look at the basic facts of this case it represents as horrific an offense as I’ve ever dealt with. It just is."
Virgilio insisted she was not a battered woman and said she would never say anything bad about Michael or his family. She couldn't explain her motive, but said she was not in her right mind.
"I cannot bring Michael back," she said. "No matter how much I want to. The only thing that I’ve ever done since this happened is to live in a way that is honoring to his life and to my sons life and to those around me because I know he was a good man."
The plea agreement listed a range between 30 and 70 years as active time to serve. Virgilio was sentenced to 99 years with 39 suspended, leaving 60 years of active time to serve.
Elizabeth Roman contributed to this report.
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