MURRIETA – Pretrial motions could get underway today ahead of jury selection for the trial of a convicted felon accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend and then driving to Las Vegas, where he was apprehended holding his and the victim’s 2-year-old son.
Celestine John Stoot Jr., 44, of Lake Elsinore allegedly killed 43-year-old Natasha Denise Barlow of San Jacinto in July 2021.
Stoot is charged with murder, child cruelty, being a convicted felon in possession of a loaded firearm and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
During a hearing Monday at the Southwest Justice Center, Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Monterosso conferred with the prosecution and defense about a tentative schedule for proceedings, and both sides agreed to work on clearing their calendars for pretrial motions this week.
The judge directed them to return Wednesday to the Murrieta courthouse.
The defendant is being held without bail at the nearby Byrd Detention Center.
On the morning of July 4, 2021, Stoot got into a domestic dispute with Barlow, culminating in his allegedly gunning her down and snatching their son, also named Celestine, from her residence in the 17000 block of Hayes Avenue, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Deanna Pecoraro.
She said that patrol deputies were called to the location hours later and found the victim dead.
Detectives immediately identified Stoot as the alleged assailant and suspected that he had left with his son, but no one was certain where. A statewide Amber Alert was issued, asking the public to be on the lookout for the felon and child.
Authorities captured Stoot with his son in Las Vegas the following afternoon. The fugitive was taken into custody without incident, and the boy, who was unharmed, was immediately returned to Southern California, where he was placed in the care of loved ones.
According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for gun assault, domestic violence and witness intimidation.
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