Crime & Courts

Woman to plead guilty in Gaston County triple slaying

Crystal Leah Gambino
Crystal Leah Gambino Gaston County Jail

Crystal Leah Gambino is expected to plead guilty on Monday to killing her husband and two others in the couple’s Gaston County home, Observer news partner WBTV reported.

Gambino, 43, remains in the Gaston County Jail without bail on three counts of first-degree murder since her arrest shortly after the Feb. 29 killings.

She plans to plead guilty in Gaston County Superior Court as part of a plea deal worked out between her lawyer and Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell, WBTV reported, citing a source with knowledge of the prosecution’s plans. Terms of the planned plea agreement have not been disclosed, according to the station.

A relative of Crystal Gambino told a Gaston County 911 operator that Gambino told her family that she killed her husband after catching him with another woman, the Observer has reported.

Gambino is accused of fatally shooting her husband, Giovanni “Gio” Gambino, along with Geoffrey Glenn Gilliland, 39, and Stephanie Lynn Sanchez, 33, in the Gambinos’ home on Alexis-Lucia Road in Alexis.

The killings stunned neighbors in the 1,200-resident community that longtime resident Brenda Propst calls “Mayberry.” The business district includes a post office, D & R Country Store, a couple of auto body shops and the Old Firehouse Shop where general merchandise is sold. Crime is rare.

David Robinson, co-owner of the Old Firehouse Shop, shook his head in disbelief the week of the killings. “I’ve known her since she was born,” Robinson said. “Normal people. He ran a wholesale wine business. Just down to earth. I can’t explain it.”

Multiple media outlets reported that the victims were shot in a bedroom and were naked when they were found.

Gilliland and Sanchez lived at the Greenleafe Inn, a $55-a-night motel on Monroe Road in Charlotte, the Observer reported.

“These are people that met, had interaction and then came together,” Gaston County Police Capt. Curtis Rosselle told the Gaston Gazette. “And then the third party did not like it and took action.”

The 911 caller said Crystal Gambino told her family that she had cleaned up the scene “and took care of the bodies.”

Gaston County Police found the victims after they entered the house. They arrested Crystal Gambino soon after at a relative’s home in nearby Stanley.

Gio Gambino was born in New York. For years, he told residents and business owners in rural, unincorporated Alexis that he was the grandson of the late Carlo Gambino – “the boss of bosses” and one of New York’s most notorious and powerful organized crime chiefs in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Public records don’t reveal an immediate family connection.

Crystal Gambino is a singer-songwriter whose Crystal Gambino Band performs Americana and alternative rock music, according to her biography on, a website that promotes musicians.

Public records indicate the Gambinos’ marriage had been troubled at times.

In 2009, Crystal took out a temporary restraining order against her husband and filed for divorce, requesting custody and child support for the couple’s daughter, now 9. The case was dismissed. That same year, Gio Gambino was charged with communicating threats against his wife. The charge was later dismissed.

The Gambinos filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and 2012; the latter occurred after the home became the subject of foreclosure proceedings. Crystal Gambino also has two DWI convictions on her record during the last 15 years.

Staff writer Michael Gordon contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak