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Man given 25 years to life for murdering ex-girlfriend

Julio Olivares, of Merced, has been sentenced by Merced County Superior Court Judge Ronald Hansen to 25 years to life in state prison for the strangulation murder of his ex-girlfriend, 20-year-old Crystal Gallardo.

Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Bacciarini said Olivares, 30, must serve 25 years in prison before he can seek parole. Motions by Olivares' defense attorney, Cristobal Perez, of Madera, to seek a new trial and reduce the conviction from first-degree to second-degree murder were denied.

Merced County Deputy District Attorney Christa Gonzalez, who prosecuted the case, was pleased with the sentence. "This defendant brutally and coldly murdered Ms. Gallardo because of his petty jealousy. He has shown no remorse for his actions," Gonzalez said.

Gallardo was strangled in the late evening hours of May 21, 2006, in Olivares' East Santa Fe Avenue apartment. A Superior Court jury convicted Olivares on Jan. 29 after four hours of deliberation.

Bacciarini said the conviction and sentence stem from an argument between Olivares and Gallardo about his continuing harassment. After committing the murder, Olivares fled to Mexico, eventually surrendering to FBI agents and Merced police detectives who returned him to Merced County to stand trial.

Olivares originally was represented by Anthony Green of the Merced County Public Defender's Office, who could not be reached for comment.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or