Untangling the Complicated Savanah Soto Murder Case

Police found pregnant Savanah Soto and boyfriend Matthew Guerra dead three days after she was scheduled to give birth. Three arrests have been made and a 19-year-old man is charged with murder.

By Natalie Finn Feb 04, 2024 1:00 PMTags
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When Savanah Soto and her boyfriend Matthew Guerra were found dead in his car on Dec. 26, police called the crime scene "perplexing."

"Detectives are looking at this right now as a possible murder," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters at the time, "but we don't know for sure."

Savanah's family had reported the pregnant 18-year-old missing after, as her mom shared on Facebook, she didn't show up for a 6:30 p.m. hospital appointment on Dec. 23 to have her labor induced. Texas authorities issued a CLEAR alert for the teen on Christmas Day to widen the search.

It came to an end, however, when Matthew's gray Kia Optima was spotted parked outside an apartment complex in northwest San Antonio. The chief said Savanah's relatives were alerted and they called police, who found the deceased pair inside.

Savannah and Matthew both died of gunshot wounds to the head, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office, and their unborn child died as well. Family members said they were having a boy they'd already named Fabian.

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"She was looking forward to being a mom," Savanah's grandmother Rachel Soto told NBC affiliate WOAI. Referring to her unborn great-grandchild, she said, "I just wish at least at least I would have been able to see him and hold him, but I never had that privilege of doing that. What much more do I need to lose?"

To whomever was responsible, Rachel added, "If there is somebody on the run, you have a conscience, do the right thing and turn yourself in."


A Break in the Case

On Dec. 28, San Antonio police shared a 79-second clip of surveillance footage from close to midnight on Dec. 21 showing two people they called "persons of interest" in their investigation.

One figure in the video was behind the wheel of a dark pickup truck—a Chevrolet Silverado, according to the chief—with a cover over the bed, while the other was driving Matthew Guerra's Kia.

The video showed the Chevy pulling into a lot close to where the bodies were found, police said. Then the Kia pulled in next to the truck, facing the opposite direction. The respective drivers got out and briefly conversed before getting back in the vehicles, after which the Silverado followed the Kia behind the building.

Three minutes later, only the Silverado drove away from the scene, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by KSAT. The affidavit noted that investigators believe Savanah Soto and Matthew were already dead when this footage was captured.

While anxious to find out what happened, Savanah's aunt publicly pleaded after the initial video came out to not make the investigation any more complicated with unfounded accusations.

"That you know that some person was involved or whoever was involved, yes of course we ask that you come forward," Valerie Mendoza told reporters, per WOAI, "but if you're just assuming or 'Yes, this dude looks like him'—no, we don't need that."

And by spreading gossip on social media, Valerie added, "You're just slowing down the process, and that's not going to help any. Of course, [police] have leads and they want to look into every single one." But, "if you're not 100 percent about it then we don't want to hear it. Just let the detectives do what they want to do, and I believe in the bottom of my heart that they're gonna get who did this."

Meanwhile, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus also addressed speculation that they were looking at a murder-suicide, telling reporters it wasn't entirely out of the question, but "we've kind of gotten past that point right now, unless we get evidence that would lead us to believe otherwise."

The Families Wait for Answers

Matthew's family held a vigil on Jan. 1, his stepmother Raquel Guerra telling WOAI that she thought she'd be babysitting on New Year's.

"Me and Savanah talked about so many things we had planned for Fabian," she said. Her husband, Matthew's dad Gabriel Guerra, told the station that, since there were "cameras everywhere, in my heart of hearts hopefully it's just a matter of time before something is found."

And it wasn't long before police located their persons of interest.

3 Suspects Arrested

On the evening of Jan. 3, 19-year-old Christopher Preciado was arrested and subsequently charged with capital murder in connection with the deaths of Savanah and Matthew.

His father, 53-year-old Ramon Preciado, was arrested as well and charged with abuse of a corpse for allegedly helping his son move the couple's bodies. Christopher's stepmother, Myrta Romanos, was arrested Jan. 10 and charged with tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and altering, destroying or concealing evidence of a human corpse, according to San Antonio police.

The gun that police believe was used to kill Savanah and Matthew was found at the suspects' house, Police Chief McManus said.

The defendants have not entered pleas yet. Christopher is being held in lieu of $2 million bail in Bexar County Jail, while Ramon is being held on $600,000. (After their arrests, both were additionally charged with altering, destroying or concealing evidence of a human corpse and Christopher has also been charged with abuse of a corpse.)

Christopher and Ramon's next court date is April 16, while Myrta—who was being held on a $1.1 million bond, according to CNN—is due to appear in court Feb. 20. 

E! News reached out to attorneys for Christopher and Myrta and have not yet heard back. The lawyer originally listed for Ramon said last month he was no longer on the case and it's unclear if the defendant has new representation.

Police Say Murders Were Drug-Related

The killings appeared to be "a narcotics-related deal that went bad," Sgt. Washington Moscoso told reporters after the initial arrests. 

The sergeant said, per NBC News, that, with help from the U.S. Secret Service, they recovered enough information from Savanah's cell phone to identify and locate the suspects' car.

"They did a little bit of surveillance on the vehicle, determined which house it belonged to," the officer explained, "went and knocked on the door, the father answered the door and knew why the police were there—he cooperated with the investigation."

Christopher told police, according to the arrest warrant affidavit obtained by KSAT, that Matthew and Savanah came to his residence to sell him marijuana on the night of Dec. 21. Investigators learned from speaking with family members, the affidavit continued, that Matthew used his cell phone and social media to sell drugs, that "people wanted to rob" him and that he'd been shot at before.

Christopher further alleged that Matthew pulled a gun on him but he "manipulated the weapon" so that it fired and hit Savanah, after which Matthew pointed the gun at Christopher again, and he in turn "manipulated the weapon again" and shot Matthew, the affidavit continued.

The charges against Christopher, however, reflect authorities' conclusion that the shooting was intentional.

"During the interviews [with Christopher and Ramon], the suspects made enough statements to implicate them in the murder," Chief McManus said at a Jan. 5 press conference.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales added that there was no evidence that Christopher's father "aided, assisted or abetted" the killings themselves, explaining why he wasn't charged with murder as well. He noted that his office had 90 days to secure indictments against the suspects.

"I can't overestimate this enough," the prosecutor said, "in order to bring justice to the memory of these two victims and in order to bring justice to the survivors and the family members, it's going to be a long road. But we have to take things one step at a time."

He also said it was "too early to tell" whether his office would be seeking the death penalty in the capital murder case against Christopher.

A History of Violence

In response to police saying the killings were drug-related, Savanah's brother Jordan Corona told NBC News that his sister did not do drugs but he worried about her because she was in an "abusive relationship."

"My sister was a little sweetheart," Jordan said. "She didn't even like being near smoke. I guess it was just one of those wrong-place, wrong-time situations. She doesn't get around that type of stuff. Of course, her boyfriend was the way he was, but as far as her [doing drugs], no."

After reporting Savanah missing, her mother Gloria Cordova posted on Facebook, "I'm worried about her safety she is w her boyfriend who is no good. Prayer for my baby girl."

Matthew was arrested Christmas Day in 2022 for beating Savanah, according to a police report obtained by NBC News, which noted that doorbell cam footage showed him kicking and punching her in the face after screaming, "F--k you b---h, you betrayed me."

According to court records, Matthew pleaded no contest to assault causing bodily injury to a domestic partner and was put on probation.

"We tried to tell her, 'That's not what you need,'" Savanah's brother said. "Of course, at that age, you feel like you know everything. Love is powerful at that age. We couldn't separate them."

Matthew's defense attorney Christopher Castro told NBC News that, after his client's arrest, he and Savanah were "together as soon as they could be again" and seemingly remained inseparable. "I can tell you every time I called Matthew, Savanah was with him," the lawyer added. He also said that he had no knowledge of Matthew being involved with drugs.

Families in Mourning

While the cops worked the murder case, the families of the victims busied themselves with the rituals of mourning.

A service was held for Matthew Jan. 9 at Mission Park Funeral Chapel, while a private service and burial was held for Savanah and Fabian on Jan. 23.

Savanah's mother Gloria wrote on Facebook, "Laid my baby girl to rest today and still can't believe she's gone. Love you my princess Till we meet again."

Savanah's killing came not long after the death of her 15-year-old brother Ethan Soto, who was fatally shot in May 2022.

"It's been very, very hard," Gloria told NBC News a few days after her daughter's body was found. "They were very close. My son loved her...My son Ethan and her, my kids come in pairs. And they were the pair."

(E! and NBC News are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)