A local Spanish radio host who often spoke out about violence on her show was shot and killed Sunday in Taylorsville, police confirmed Monday.
Gabriela Sifuentes Castilla, 38, was fatally shot around 1:35 a.m. Sunday at her home in the area of 2300 West and 5200 South, which she shared with members of her family, Sgt. Aaron Cheshire with the Taylorsville Police Department said. She suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Police are searching for 34-year-old Manuel Omar Burciaga-Perea in connection with the shooting, which detectives are investigating as a domestic homicide. He and the victim had been in a romantic relationship for less than a year, Cheshire said.
“I wish that my sister was alive,” Rocio Sifuentes said during a news conference Monday. “She was a really lovely woman, really brave.”
With her voice breaking, she added, “I’m super angry, super sad.”
Sifuentes Castilla also was known by her on-air name Gaby Ramos. She had worked as a host on the radio station La Más Picosita on 1550 AM since March 2020. Cheshire on Monday confirmed that Sifuentes Castilla and Ramos were the same woman.
On her show “La Neta del Planeta” (The Truth of the Planet), she discussed topics including violence, substance abuse, injustice, nutrition, love and self-worth. The program was “dedicated to the service of the community,” according to Alex Calvo, director of La Más Picosita.
“That’s why she was very loved,” Calvo said, “because she would give a lot of advice all the time, and especially, advice for women, about mistreatment, about the things that women have to go through in the world.”
The first hour of her show, though, was always dedicated to rock, Calvo said. Listeners from Mexico, Central America, Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas and Canada would tune in.
Calvo descibed Sifuentes Castilla as a hardworking, talented reporter.
“She liked to help people,” Calvo said.
Suspect considered armed and dangerous
When Sifuentes Castilla and Burciaga-Perea broke up, “she tried to manage things the best way as possible, keeping him as a friend,” Calvo said. But her ex-boyfriend “was obsessed with her.”
On Saturday, Sifuentes Castilla worked until about 2 p.m. at the station, where Burciaga-Perea would “always” show up, Calvo said. The two of them ending up going to a party together. She was killed hours later.
“It’s such a big loss for us,” Calvo said. “We want to thank her for being part of our lives and tell her we are going to miss her.”
Before the shooting, Taylorsville police initially received a domestic disturbance call from a friend or relative of Sifuentes Castilla. The caller reported that the incident was nonviolent and that the suspect had left, so it was not initially considered a high-priority response, Taylorsville Police Chief Brady Cottam has said.
About 14 minutes later, the suspect apparently returned and fired between three and six shots, Cottam said. Following a second call, police and paramedics arrived within two minutes.
Police said Burciaga-Perea is considered armed and dangerous and was last seen in a 2000 Chevy full-size extended cab with Utah license plate U405MN.
Anyone with information on Burciaga-Perea’s whereabouts may contact police dispatch at 801-840-4000 and reference case No. TY21-13472.
In spring 2020, at the early height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utah Domestic Violence LINKLine and victim service providers statewide saw a 20-50% increase in calls, said Liz Sollis, a spokesperson for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. She said those rates have “remained steady” since they rose.
“People who are victims of violence are entitled to live safe lives, free of a threat of harm or actual harm or violence,” Sollis said, adding that anyone who is experiencing domestic violence or intimate partner violence should know that they are not alone and that help is available.
Call 1-800-897-LINK to be connected to an advocate and resources. Sollis said interpreters are available for 250 languages.
“We want to remind all who are affected by domestic violence that support and resources are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at YWCA Utah,” said Gabriella Archuleta, public policy director at YWCA Utah. “We have bilingual advocates for those in shelter and our 24-hour crisis line has access to several languages. The shelter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
A GoFundMe page set up after Sifuentes Castilla’s slaying to help cover funeral and travel expenses had raised more than $3,000 as of Monday afternoon. The page notes that Sifuentes Castilla was a “phenomenal mother” to her 9-year-old daughter.
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.