Crime & Courts

Anchorage woman gets 60 years in boyfriend’s burning death

A woman who poured gasoline on the couch where her sleeping boyfriend lay and then shut the door after seeing him jump up and yell "hot, hot" will spend 60 years in prison for first-degree murder.

Saying it represents as horrific an offense as he's ever dealt with, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton on Monday sentenced Gina Virgilio to 99 years with 39 years suspended. She also was sentenced to 10 years of probation after her release for the 2012 death of Michael Gonzalez.

Virgilio, 32, sat with her face buried in her hands as Wolverton announced the sentence. He said she was not a monster and has shown remorse but did a "horrific, horrific, thing."

Before sentencing Virgilio indicated to the judge that mental illness drove her to this act.

"I hate me for what I did. I can never bring him back," she said.

There was no motive for the murder, which she called frustrating.

"You can't make sense out of a mind that makes no sense," Virgilio said. "Everything that ever happened with my son, with Michael, it was from my mind. When you believe something, you act on those things."


She said once she has come back to normal, her life picked up right where it was before she got into drugs. She's active with a faith-based therapeutic program at the women's prison, and she is setting records in the running program.

Gonzalez family members gave heart-wrenching victim impact statements to the court on Oct. 4. The rest of the sentencing phase was continued to Monday.

Outside the courtroom, the victim's youngest brother was relieved with the sentence and happy to have the seven-year ordeal over.

"I believe as long as she gets out at a late enough age to where she's not a danger to me, my family or society, I'm OK with it," Austine Gonzalez said.

Virgilio entered a plea deal earlier this year, and the state agreed to a sentence of 30 to 70 years. But during sentencing Monday, the state pushed for 70 years, noting circumstances of the crime warranted the higher end.

"I think the court considered and made an appropriate sentence," Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay said. Virgilio's public defender, Craig Howard, declined comment.

Virgilio's supporters spoke on her behalf Monday, including a brother and three representatives of organizations that help at the prison.

Her brother, Reginald Carney, said he was closest to Gina among the family's six siblings.

He said she began to change after she began experimenting with drugs, at about age 20, everything from Oxcyotin and marijuana to cocaine.

She later graduated to intravenous meth use. In January 2012, she disappeared for about two weeks, attending a meth-fueled party somewhere between Talkeetna and Willow that began a six-month decline into drug psychosis that ended with Gonzalez's murder.

"Her brain was fried from the meth," Howard said.

She lost weight, kept distance from loved ones and once tried to kill her child. She also became obsessed with fire, Howard said.

The state eventually took the child from her, shortly before she set the apartment on fire. Before the fire, her brother took her to the emergency room, fearful she would harm herself.

She was released after about three hours with the prognosis of drug-induced psychosis, which would pass.

After the fire, she tested negative for drugs and alcohol.

On the night of June 7, 2012, Virgilio and Gonzalez held a party for Gonzalez's 24th birthday. While he passed out or fell asleep on the couch early the next morning after drinking beer, she found a gas can and walked a quarter mile to the nearest gas station. When she got there, she only had 53 cents in her pocket, so the clerk gave her $5 for gas.

Virgilio then walked back to the apartment, stared at her boyfriend for a while and doused the couch, the carpet in front of it and the area in front of the apartment's only doorway with gasoline.

She lit mail on fire and tossed it inside. When she saw Gonzalez get up and yell “hot, hot” she shut the door and fled. He died from smoke inhalation and severe burns.

Mark Thiessen, Associated Press

Mark Thiessen is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Anchorage.