Crystal Theobald’s Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

‘Why Did You Kill Me?’ is a true-crime documentary from Netflix directed by Fredrick Munk. It details the utterly random killing of 24-year-old Crystal Theobald as a result of gang violence and her mother’s relentless fight to catch the people who murdered her. By using MySpace, the mother tracked down people that were involved with the shooting leading to a big break in the case and, eventually, arrests and convictions. Curious to know what happened? We’ve got you covered.

How Did Crystal Theobald Die?

Crystal Theobald was living with her family in Riverside, California, when the incident happened. She was a mother to two kids from a previous marriage, but she had left her husband because he had gotten into drugs and violence. At the time, she was dating 20-year-old Juan Patlan. On February 24, 2006, Crystal was in a car with her boyfriend and her brother, Justin Theobald, when tragedy struck them.

Around 8:40 PM that night, as they were driving by an intersection, the car which Crystal was in was shot multiple times by someone who got out of a white SUV. Crystal was hit in the head, and Juan was hit in his stomach. Justin was unharmed. Crystal’s mother, Belinda Lane, who was in another car ahead of Crystal’s, had witnessed the shooting. While the suspects fled, Crystal was rushed to a hospital, but she succumbed to her injuries two days later. Back at the scene, multiple shell casings were collected, and an investigation ensued.

Who Killed Crystal Theobald?

As the authorities looked for potential suspects, Belinda had started an investigation of her own. When she realized that the killing could be gang-related, she went on MySpace, which was a popular social networking site at the time, to garner more information. With the help of Crystal’s cousin, Jaimie (who was 14 years old at the time), they set up a fake profile under the name of Rebecca, hoping to befriend members of the 5150, a violent street gang from Riverside.

When they couldn’t make much headway, Belinda decided to make another fake profile, but this time with Crystal’s picture and the name “Angel.” Once it got too difficult for Jaimie and she stopped, Belinda took over. Through Angel’s profile, she befriended William “Jokes” Sotelo, a member of the gang. She went on to try and garner information from him. It was William who would give the police the first big lead in the case.

Once Belinda told police about William and the conversations on MySpace, they brought him in for questioning. In a voluntary interview, he told the police about the events from that night and gave the police a few more names of the people that were in his car at the time. The police let him go after his interview, and he disappeared shortly after. Equipped with more information, they started questioning other members of the gang who were present in the car that night, and Manuel “Tripper” Lemus became an important witness.

While Manuel, a member of the gang at the time, was initially reticent to talk about the events of that night, he eventually went back and told the police what happened. It was stated that the gang members wanted to retaliate after one of them was shot at earlier by someone from a rival gang. At the intersection on the night of February 24, Julio “Lil Huero” Heredia opened fire on the car with Crystal, mistakenly assuming that they were members of the rival gang, after which he left the scene with the rest of them. It was William Sotelo’s car that was used at the time, and he was the one driving it.

As a result, the authorities started looking for Julio, who was eventually arrested in Mexico. In 2011, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder, attempted murder, and a few other charges. William Sotelo was at large for almost 10 years before finally being apprehended in Mexico as a direct result of a tip that Belinda had received on Facebook. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Ultimately, ten people who were involved with the murder pleaded guilty through the years for a number of different charges.

Read More: Where is Belinda Lane From Why Did You Kill Me Today?