Gabriel Vega Convicted of Manslaughter and Abortion, Not Murder
TROY, N.Y. -- Gabriel Vega has been acquitted of the murder charges against him, but convicted of manslaughter charges in the killing of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Vanessa Milligan. He was also found guilty of arson and abortion.
"Baby girl, we got him, that's the best thing I can tell you," said Vanessa's father, Nathan Milligan, after the verdict.
The trial has been going on a little more than two weeks, but the Milligan family has been waiting for two years to get justice for their 19-year-old loved one. Vanessa Milligan died just a week shy of her baby's due date. Vega was arrested more than six months later in October of 2014.
Gabriel Vega's family has also been in the courtroom every day, continuing to support him as he maintained his innocence. They broke into tears as a juror read the verdict.
"We're still in his support," said Elba Pacheco, a family friend. "Nobody wins today."
Nathan Milligan echoed that sentiment. While he's happy Vega will be behind bars for many years, he knows that doesn't bring his daughter or granddaughter back.
"When it's all said and done, there are no winners here," he said.
A day before the verdict, the jury asked the judge for the legal definitions of all the charges against Vega. That included the difference between manslaughter and murder, which is intent to kill.
Testimony in Vega's trial began two weeks ago with a witness who said that she saw Vega running from the burning home toward the Pizza Hut on Fifth Avenue the night of the fire on April 3, 2014. A fire investigator later took the stand to say the fire was set intentionally and it appeared that gasoline had been poured directly on Milligan's body.
Starting last week, interrogation tapes were introduced to jurors, with the sergeant who questioned Vega taking the stand.
In the tapes, Sergeant Jonathan Becker is shown questioning Vega about whether he saw Vanessa Milligan the night she died. Becker testified that Vega told officers that he never saw Milligan that night, but that DNA evidence indicates the pair had sex the night Milligan was killed.
On the tapes, you hear Vega say he lied to police about seeing Milligan because he was scared.
The second witness to tie Vega to the crime was his ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Virola. She told jurors on the night of April 3, 2014, Vega called her to tell her he'd 'done something' wrong. Two months later, Virola says Vega admitted to her that he killed Milligan.
The defense argued that Virola was an unreliable witness, and that she was making the whole thing up because of an argument she had with Vega herself.
"Vega is maintaining his innocence," said defense attorney Frederick Rench after the verdict came out. "That said, he appreciates the jury's hard work and the acquittal on the murder charge."
The district attorney says Vega could face almost 60 years behind bars, and the DA's office hopes the sentences are served consecutively. Vega's sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 14 at 9 a.m.