Sentencing postponed for man convicted of killing girlfriend near Keyes

06/10/2014 2:09 PM

06/10/2014 11:48 PM

A judge on Tuesday postponed a sentencing hearing for a man convicted of murder in his girlfriend’s shooting death near Keyes.

Defense attorney Kirk McAllister asked the judge to postpone the sentencing because he needs more time to file a motion for a new trial on the behalf of his client, Robert Vanderheiden.

A jury on May 12 found Vanderheiden guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting of his girlfriend, 26-year-old Teresa Rangel. The 36-year-old defendant faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden scheduled the defendant to return to court July 28 for his new-trial motion. If the judge denies the defense motion, it’s possible Vanderheiden could be sentenced that day.

Vanderheiden claimed that his girlfriend was spinning the pistol with her finger in the trigger guard and that he was trying to take the gun away from her when the weapon accidentally fired.

The jurors did not believe his testimony. The conviction indicates that the jury believes Vanderheiden committed the crime with premeditation.

Authorities said Vanderheiden shot his girlfriend in anger when she tried to leave him. The prosecutor argued in the trial that the physical evidence indicated the defendant shot his girlfriend from several feet away, not the short distance he claimed.

The shooting occurred about 9:45 p.m. 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.

A bullet fired from Vanderheiden’s .40-caliber Glock 27 pistol struck the center of her forehead.

When deputies arrived at the home, Rangel was found on a living-room couch bleeding profusely from the gunshot wound. Her boyfriend was leaning over her body, pleading for her to live.

Vanderheiden remains in custody at the Stanislaus County jail as he awaits his sentencing hearing.

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