April 11, 2014

Sister: Defendant upset over girlfriend leaving before fatal shooting near Keyes

Natasha Valderrama, the sister of slaying victim Teresa Rangel, testified in Stanislaus Superior Court on Friday that defendant Robert Vanderheiden was angry upon learning that Rangel, his girlfriend, wanted to move out of the couple’s home.

Teresa Rangel called her family in January 2011, telling them her boyfriend was going to kick her out after he discovered text messages on her phone.

Natasha Valderrama testified Friday that her sister had asked in the text messages if she could return to their family’s home in Concord. Valderrama told the jury that her sister’s boyfriend, Robert Vanderheiden, was upset because the text messages revealed Rangel had plans to leave their home in Stanislaus County.

“He said I was sneaking around his back, trying to take her away,” Valderrama said on the witness stand, apparently trying not to look at Vanderheiden, who was sitting next to his attorney. “He said, ‘No one is going to take my flower away.’ ”

About two months later, 26-year-old Rangel was dead from a gunshot wound to the center of her forehead. Her boyfriend is on trial, accused of murder.

The shooting occurred March 21, 2011, at a rural home where Vanderheiden and Rangel lived with his grandparents along Warner Road, about a mile west of Highway 99 southwest of Keyes.

Valderrama testified that she told her sister via text message that it would be OK for Rangel to return to Concord, and that she would help care for her baby. Rangel had a child with another man.

After Vanderheiden discovered the text messages from Valderrama, Rangel called her sister to come get her, Valderrama said. She testified that her sister wanted her “to hurry up, because he was going to leave her on the side of the road.”

Valderrama told the jury that, during the phone conversation, she could hear Vanderheiden cursing at her in the background and making lewd comments about her sister. When Valderrama and her parents arrived at the couple’s home, she said Rangel “was anxious and scared, and she just kept apologizing to me.”

Rangel ultimately decided to remain with Vanderheiden. During cross-examination, Valderrama said she was angry that her sister didn’t return with them, and that she didn’t speak or hear from her sister again until March 17, 2011. Rangel left a message for her sister that day, wishing her a happy birthday. The shooting occurred four days later.

Andrea Wade, Vanderheiden’s sister, testified Friday that her brother had a good relationship with his girlfriend. Wade and her family also lived in her grandparents’ large home near Keyes.

“They loved each other,” Wade told the jury about her brother and his girlfriend. “They spent every minute together.”

Rangel’s sisters visited her several hours before the shooting. Wade said she joined a friendly gathering in the backyard with her brother and her husband. She testified that she and her husband smoked marijuana with Rangel and her sisters, while her brother drank Crown Royal whiskey.

She said Rangel later left the home, and she heard her brother arguing on the phone about 5:30 p.m., and he was yelling “stay with your f------ sisters!” About 9:45 p.m., Wade said she heard one gunshot from the living room. Before that, she said she didn’t hear any arguing or unusual noises from the living room.

Wade’s husband went to the living room, and she called 911. She later saw her brother covered in blood. He was frantic, screaming and crying.

She said she saw her brother leaning over Rangel on the couch, hugging the injured woman. Wade testified that her brother was saying, “Don’t die, Teresa, please don’t die.”

During cross-examination, Wade said she also heard her brother say something like “What do I do? What did I do?” after the shooting.

She said she didn’t remember telling an investigator that she heard her brother say, “Oh my God, what have I done?” After Wade was shown a written report of her discussion with the investigator, the prosecutor asked again if her brother said that, and she answered, “Maybe, I don’t know.”

Wade also testified that she didn’t remember telling the investigator that her husband took the gun out to the patio after the shooting because he was afraid of how Vanderheiden was acting.

The trial is expected to continue Tuesday in Stanislaus Superior Court.

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