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Lehigh Acres man guilty of killing girlfriend on Christmas Eve while dancing with a gun

The News-Press (Fort Myers) logo The News-Press (Fort Myers) 6/27/2022 Michael Braun, Fort Myers News-Press
Hilario Jose Cruz © Special to The News-Press Hilario Jose Cruz

A Lehigh Acres man found guilty in the Christmas Eve 2020 shooting death of his girlfriend will be sentenced Aug. 8.

Hilario Jose Cruz, 24, told investigators that he shot his girlfriend after they returned from a family party and after he drank alcohol and smoked marijuana.

Jose Cruz was found guilty of manslaughter with a firearm Thursday following a three-day trial in Lee County.

Christmas Eve shooting: Lehigh Acres man charged in Christmas Eve fatal gunfire admits to shooting girlfriend

Court documents filed in the case show Jose Cruz told detectives that he called 911 after shooting his girlfriend sometime before 11:30 p.m.

He told detectives that he tried to help her and then placed two guns, a 9mm pistol and a .40-caliber handgun, and two loaded 9 mm magazines into a cabinet in the garage at their home in the 5300 block of Butte Street where the couple had been talking.

Jose Cruz was near his girlfriend's body, which was on the garage floor, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest. She died a short time later.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office confiscated the weapons, a spent 9mm shell casing and one live round.

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Jose Cruz told investigators that he had consumed three alcoholic drinks at his work before 4 p.m. and then more at a family party before driving home with his girlfriend at 10 p.m. During the drive home he said the couple stopped and he purchased a bottle of cognac.

A police report said the couple continued drinking and were listening to music in the garage at their home. Jose-Cruz also admitted smoking marijuana and dancing with the loaded firearm, prior to the shooting.

Jose-Cruz said his girlfriend told him several times to put the guns away and stop handling them or pointing them at her while he danced. He also said he decided to clean one of the guns but no cleaning materials were found, a Sheriff's Office report said.

He told detectives that he chambered the 9mm pistol and as he placed it on a table he pulled the trigger and the gun discharged, with the round hitting his girlfriend in the chest.

In the Sheriff's Office report, Jose Cruz said the music made him feel like holding his guns and he was going to have his girlfriend take a photo of him displaying the weapons.

Investigators confirmed the couple had been in a relationship for five years and had an 8-month-old child together with no prior disturbances or domestic violence reported.

Jose Cruz' parents, asleep at the same address, confirmed the relationship and said they did not hear the gunshot.

Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook)@MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or mbraun@news-press.com. 

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Lehigh Acres man guilty of killing girlfriend on Christmas Eve while dancing with a gun

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