A 23-year-old man accused in February of shooting Hector “Ricky” Apodaca and leaving his body on a remote Central Kitsap road pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison.
Andrew Phillip Gilbert, 23, had initially been charged with first-degree murder in Kitsap County Superior Court for the homicide of Apodaca, 30.
Apodaca’s murder came 11½ years after the murder of his mother, Janet Eaton, who was shot and killed in downtown Bremerton.
A family friend of Apodaca who knew Eaton said Apodaca’s death was a tragedy for all involved
“I think dangerous people need to be taken off the streets,” said Diana Sunderland, of Bremerton, who was with Eaton when she brought Apodaca home from the hospital after he was born. Sunderland called the matter a tragedy for Apodaca as well as Gilbert. “I feel bad, it’s a young boy, just like Ricky.”
Apodaca was a father to two children.
Gilbert’s girlfriend, Hope Jones-Calhoun, 20, pleaded guilty earlier this month to a count of first-degree rendering criminal assistance. She was accused of helping to wash and vacuum the car following the shooting as well as hiding a cellphone believed to have belonged to Apodaca.
She faces up to a year in jail when she is sentenced June 30. Gilbert is scheduled to be sentenced August 3.
Gilbert told Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office detectives that he knew Apodaca through his heroin dealer and the two drove to the Seabeck area the night of Feb. 18 to visit an acquaintance. Gilbert said he had been attempting to sell some belongings. During the trip, Gilbert claimed that Apodaca had become “hostile.”
While Gilbert drove, Apodaca carried on a phone conversation with a friend offering the car and the items for sale, Apodaca’s friend told detectives.
The heroin dealer told detectives that Gilbert "has a Napoleon-type complex and that (Apodaca) had a tendency to get under people's skin," according to court documents.
While on the phone with his friend, Apodaca asked Gilbert questions about the car and Gilbert began to suspect Apodaca was “talking in code and they were going to take the car.”
Gilbert said Apodaca insisted he pull over and allow Apodaca to drive. After stopping the car on the 9300 block of Misery Point Road, Gilbert said Apodaca got out and went to the driver’s door.
Gilbert said he was scared, got out of the car armed with his pistol and shot at Apodaca.
Investigators wrote Apodaca responded by saying, “What the f---?”
Gilbert said that Apodaca began walking away from him and that he shot at him again and Apodaca fell.
A passing motorist saw Apodaca’s body at about 11:30 p.m. and called 911, and investigators on the scene reported it appeared Apodaca had been shot twice in the face. Also recovered from the scene was a broken glass meth pipe.
Gilbert had been charged with first-degree murder.
“Based upon the facts we can prove, this is an appropriate charge,” said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chad Enright.
The second-degree murder charge includes a five-year sentencing enhancement for using a firearm. Gilbert will have to serve five full years and will be eligible for a "good time" reduction for the remainder of his sentence.
Tom Weaver, Gilbert’s attorney, had challenged some of the statements Gilbert made to investigators that prosecutors intended to bring before a jury, with a hearing on the matter scheduled for Monday. Weaver said the plea agreement was made Friday.
“My client insisted at the time of the shooting he was concerned he was going to be carjacked because of the actions of the victim and because of his reputation for carjacking,” Weaver said.
At the time of Gilbert’s arrest, Christina Baumgartner, with whom had Apodaca spent 10 years in a relationship, said Apodaca was trying to help Gilbert, not steal from him.
Eaton, Apodaca’s mother, was shot and killed Aug. 31, 2005 on the porch of her house on Sixth Street after a confrontation with Raven M. Hudson, then 21, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Sunderland said Apodaca was close to his mother.
“I just think Ricky was an awesome kid, and when he lost his mom he got mixed up in a lot of stuff he shouldn’t have been mixed up in,” she said. “All I can say is this is a tragedy all the way around.”