A convicted felon from Lake Elsinore accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend and then fleeing to Las Vegas, where he was apprehended holding his and the victim’s 2-year-old son, must stand trial for murder and other offenses, a judge ruled Friday.

Celestine John Stoot Jr., 43, allegedly killed 43-year-old Natasha Denise Barlow of San Jacinto last July.

Following a preliminary hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for the defendant on the murder count, as well as child cruelty, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

The judge scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for June 20 and ordered that the defendant remain held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

On the morning of July 4, Stoot got into a domestic dispute with Barlow, culminating in his allegedly gunning her down and snatching their son, also named Celestine, from her residence in the 17000 block of Hayes Avenue, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Deanna Pecoraro.

She said that patrol deputies were called to the location hours later and found the victim dead.

Detectives immediately identified Stoot as the alleged assailant and suspected that he had fled with his son, but no one was certain where. A statewide Amber Alert was issued, asking the public to be on the lookout for the felon 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.

According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for gun assault, domestic violence and witness intimidation.

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