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Crime News Breaking News

Arizona Man Gets Life For Brutal 2017 Murder Of Kindergarten Teacher He'd Been Dating

Charlie Malzahn pleaded guilty to murdering Cathryn Gorospe —a woman he'd been dating who just bonded him out of jail — in 2017, before burying her body in the desert and embarking on an alleged crime spree. 

By Jax Miller
Cathryn Gorospe with her dog, Sunshine.

An Arizona man convicted of murdering a beloved elementary school teacher has been sentenced to life in prison.

Charlie Malzahn, 32, had been spared the death penalty in exchange for pleading guilty in June to the murder of Cathryn Gorospe, 44, according to the Associated Press. The pair had been dating for about a month when Gorospe disappeared on Oct. 6, 2017, shortly after she bonded the defendant out of jail for an unrelated crime, according to CBS News.

Gorospe’s mother, Lynette Jackson, was present in the Flagstaff courtroom when Malzahn was sentenced on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. She had seemingly hoped for the death penalty, which was taken off the table when Malzahn pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, abandonment of a body, and other charges related to the case.

“Life in prison is a gift,” said Jackson. “What choice did Cathryn have?”

The victim’s father, Ray Gorospe, also made a statement.

“I didn’t know it was possible to feel so much pain without being physically injured,” he said while sobbing in the courtroom. “People talk of closure. To me, there will never be closure, only the terrible pain of losing my daughter.”

Judge Dan Slayton addressed Gorospe’s grieving family, according to the Associated Press.

“You’ll leave here and leave with the same heaviness and emptiness you’ve expressed and that you’ve felt for almost the past five years,” Slayton told Malzahn. “What I have seen here is a tremendous amount of love for each other. I hope that feeling of love and kindness to each other will enable you to find peace.”

Malzahn said little at his sentencing, according to the Associated Press.

“I just want to say I’m sorry,” he said. “I know it doesn’t change anything.”

A police handout of Charlie Malzahn

Gorospe was a kindergarten teacher for the Deer Valley School District, according to KPNX. During the summer, she worked as a tour guide in Williams, Arizona — about 30 miles west of Flagstaff near the Grand Canyon. Malzahn (the stepson of Williams Police Chief Herman Nixon) was a convicted felon who worked at a restaurant in the same town.

When the pair met, Malzahn had already spent much of his adult life in and out of jail, according to the Williams-Grand Canyon News. Malzahn’s previous charges included theft, aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

In August 2017, he was arrested once again for stealing a family member’s vehicle and firearm possession. In October that year — just before Gorospe’s murder — the then-27-year-old found himself back in jail yet again.

Gorospe put up her home as collateral to obtain Malzahn’s release. Relatives said the victim hoped she could set Malzahn on the straight and narrow by helping him gain control of his drug addiction.

Shortly after Malzahn's release, he stabbed Gorospe to death and ran her over with her own vehicle.

According to NBC Mesa affiliate KPNX, Malzahn then traveled around the state to embark on an alleged violent crime spree in Gorospe’s bloodied SUV.

Tucson Police found Malzahn using Gorospe’s credit cards at the Tucson Mall the day after she vanished, according to KPNX. Even though Malzahn told authorities he had Gorospe’s permission to access her bank accounts, police confiscated the cards, but no arrest was made.

The day after that, Malzahn allegedly assaulted a female student on campus at Arizona State University. Following that assault, Malzahn reportedly used a crowbar to threaten a Tempe woman into giving him her car, according to KPNX.

On Oct. 9, 2017, officers with the Phoenix Police spotted Gorospe’s vehicle with Malzahn behind the wheel. Malzahn tried to make a getaway but ultimately crashed the SUV, which was later revealed to have Gorospe’s blood all over its interior.

Malzahn attacked officers following his arrest and tried using his handcuffs to strangle one of the officers while being fingerprinted, according to the Williams outlet.

In subsequent interviews, officers said Malzahn’s eyes were “bloodshot” and “his pupils were dilated.”

Malzahn eventually confessed to Gorospe’s murder and, on Oct. 13, 2017, led authorities to her body in a shallow grave on a remote roadside in Mayer, Arizona — about 85 miles south of Williams — according to AZ Central.

A postmortem examination revealed she had sustained 14 stab wounds and had been run over with her own SUV.

Records show Malzahn had a dark and tumultuous background, according to AZ Central. His sister alleged that Malzahn had been sexually abused by a family member, allegedly used an ax to chop a woman’s arm off and had a years-long methamphetamine addiction. He was also suspected of having paranoid schizophrenia but, according to the Associated Press, he was found competent to stand trial in the case of Cathryn Gorospe.

Malzahn will serve his sentence without the possibility of parole. Criminal charges related to his crime spree following Gorospe’s murder are pending in other counties.