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Crime & Courts

Anchorage woman pleads guilty to murder in 2012 burning death of boyfriend

Gina Virgilio sits alone in the Anchorage jail court while waiting for her arraignment on Monday, June 11, 2012. Virgilio was accused of dousing her boyfriend Michael Gonzalez, 24, with gasoline as he slept on the couch and setting him ablaze, killing him. (Bill Roth / ADN)

An Anchorage woman accused of setting her boyfriend on fire while he was sleeping in 2012 pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday.

Prosecutors accused Gina Virgilio, then a 25-year-old child care worker, of pouring gasoline around Michael Gonzalez while he was sleeping on the couch at their Russian Jack apartment, tossing a flaming piece of paper into the apartment and igniting the gas.

Virgilio, now 32, changed her plea on the day her case was scheduled to go to trial, something Assistant Attorney General Katholyn Runnels, who prosecuted the case, said isn’t unheard of.

“Maybe the reality of going to trial hits them,” Runnels said.

Members of the jury pool were already at the courthouse waiting for the jury selection process to begin Tuesday when the change of plea came in, she said.

Virgilio’s plea agreement convicts her of first-degree murder but dismisses eight other charges, including arson, second-degree murder and criminal mischief, Runnels said.

Firefighters found Gonzalez, who was working as a line cook at Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria, dead inside the McCarrey Street apartment when they responded to the blaze at 2:26 a.m. June 8, 2012.

Virgilio initially told detectives that Gonzalez, who she said had been verbally abusive to her, started the fire. However, when her mother, Michelle Virgilio, confronted her after she returned from police questioning, Gina Virgilio admitted to starting the blaze, prosecutors said.

She’d watched Gonzalez wake up, and say, “Hot, hot,” before she shut the door to the apartment and fled, Michelle Virgilio told detectives.

Michelle said her daughter had at one point been addicted to methamphetamine and heroin, but had been clean since January 2012.

The agreement specifies that Virgilio must serve between 30 and 70 years in prison, but any other terms of her sentence will be left for the judge to decide. She will be sentenced on Oct. 4.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Michael Gonzalez’ last name.

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