A convicted felon from Lake Elsinore accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend and then fleeing to Las Vegas, where he was apprehended while holding his and the victim’s 2-year-old son, made his initial court appearance Wednesday.
Celestine John Stoot Jr., 42, was extradited back to California on Sunday. He’s charged with second-degree murder, child cruelty, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
Stoot appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Judith Clark, who appointed him a public defender and scheduled his arraignment for Aug. 11 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
The judge ordered the defendant held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
On the morning of July 4, Stoot got into a domestic dispute with 43-year-old Natasha Denise Barlow of San Jacinto, culminating in his allegedly gunning her down and snatching their son, also named Celestine, from the residence in the 17000 block of Hayes Avenue, according to Sgt. Deanna Pecoraro of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
She said that patrol deputies were called to the location hours later and found Barlow dead.
Detectives immediately identified Stoot as the alleged assailant and suspected that he had fled with his son, but no one was certain where, according to Pecoraro.
A statewide Amber Alert was issued, asking the public to be on the lookout for the defendant and child.
Authorities captured Stoot with his son in Las Vegas the following afternoon. The fugitive was taken into custody without incident, and the boy, who was unharmed, was immediately returned to Southern California, where he was placed in the care of loved ones.
Stoot was initially booked into the Clark County Detention Center in Nevada, where he remained until he was retrieved by Riverside County law enforcement personnel and transported to Riverside.
According to court records, he has prior convictions for gun assault, domestic violence and witness intimidation.