Families of Savannah Soto and Matthew Guerra in dispute over deaths

Vanessa Soto, 18, with her boyfriend, Matthew Guerra, 22. They were expecting their first child, a boy they named Fabian.

Courtesy photo

Their loved ones lay lifeless together in a nearby car. But the two heartbroken families stood on either side of the crime scene.

Days after they went missing, pregnant Savannah Soto, 18, and her boyfriend, Matthew Guerra, 22, were found shot to death Tuesday afternoon in their car at an apartment complex on the Northwest Side.

Was it a murder-suicide? Were they ambushed? Who was to blame?

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Police did not have immediate answers. Over the next few days, authorities provided some clarity: Both Soto and Guerra were killed by gunshots to the head, and both deaths were homicides. Detectives are combing through security footage, cell phone records and social media posts for clues as to who is responsible.

But from the moment she disappeared, Soto’s family has made it clear they believe Guerra, the father of her unborn child, had something to do with the tragedy.

Gerald Corona, Savannah Soto's older brother, shows a photo of her when she was 7 years old.

Gerald Corona, Savannah Soto’s older brother, shows a photo of her when she was 7 years old.

Sam Owens/San Antonio Express-News

“I’m worried about her safety”

Soto’s mother, Gloria Cordova, asked friends and family to help find her daughter when she failed to show up Saturday, Dec. 23, for an appointment at Stone Oak Methodist Hospital, where doctors were scheduled to induce labor.

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“I’m worried about her safety,” Cordova wrote on Facebook, adding that Soto was with her boyfriend “who is not good.”

Other than saying Soto was last seen with Guerra, the family’s social media statements did not mention him. In interviews with the news media, they alluded darkly to Guerra’s “lifestyle.”

Guerra has had several run-ins with the law and pleaded guilty to assaulting Soto around Christmas 2022.

The Soto family’s suspicions about the murders deepened when they learned details from police investigators, including exactly how Soto and Guerra met their end: Both were shot behind the ear, execution-style.

“We’re not saying he killed her, but it still has to do with his actions and his lifestyle,” said Soto’s older brother, Gerald Corona, as he fought back tears.

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Guerra’s family is also asking for help finding him after he went missing, and photos they posted from the couple’s recent baby shower included a smiling Soto.

Gabriel Guerra said his son “didn’t hang out with the best crowd,” but said Matthew and Soto are excited for their baby.

“I love you Matthew Gabriel Guerra, the baby you lost and the beautiful queen I loved, I was able to meet the baby’s birthday,” Guerra’s mother, Karen Hernandez, wrote on Facebook.

His family tagged posts with #justiceforsavannahandmatthew.

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The feelings were not reciprocated.

Angelica Soto, left, Savannah's aunt, comforts Alexis Soto, Savannah's sister, at a vigil Thursday afternoon.

Angelica Soto, left, Savannah’s aunt, comforts Alexis Soto, Savannah’s sister, at a vigil Thursday afternoon.

Salgu Wissmath/San Antonio Express-News

“We had a problem with him”

Corona and his partner, Mariana Delgado, said the family never had a good impression of Matthew Guerra.

He and Savannah met when she was 16 and a sophomore at Oliver Wendell Holmes High School on the Westside. They met through mutual acquaintances and she called it quits after they started seeing each other, Corona and Delgado said.

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“He’s four years older than her,” Corona said. “She was underage. That’s why we had a problem with him at first.”

Soto knew her relatives didn’t like Guerra, so she showed up at family gatherings without him, Corona said.

Their dislike of Guerra intensified after he was arrested on charges of assaulting her in late December 2022.

“We took her to the hospital,” Delgado said.

Guerra was booked into the Bexar County Jail after he allegedly punched Soto with an arm and a leg, according to court documents.

He was charged with domestic assault causing bodily harm and released on bail on December 27, 2022, on the condition that he have no contact with Soto and that he not possess a firearm.

On Jan. 7, Guerra was arrested again for allegedly violating the terms of his bond. He spoke with Soto in person shortly after his release from prison in violation of the no-contact order, according to court documents. He was also charged with illegally carrying a weapon in a motor vehicle.

In April, his bond violation charge was dismissed due to a “missing witness,” court records show. He pleaded guilty to the weapons charge and was sentenced to 12 days in jail.

Police officers at the Northwest Side apartment complex where the bodies of Savannah Soto, 18, and her boyfriend, Matthew Guerra, 22, were found Tuesday afternoon.

Police officers at the Northwest Side apartment complex where the bodies of Savannah Soto, 18, and her boyfriend, Matthew Guerra, 22, were found Tuesday afternoon.

Jacob Beltran

In the summer, he pleaded guilty to the domestic violence charge and was sentenced to a year of probation.

These were not his only contacts with the law. In March 2021, Guerra was charged with illegally carrying a weapon. The case was later dismissed.

In September 2023, Texas State Police arrested Guerra on charges of reckless driving, unlawfully carrying a weapon and evading arrest with a vehicle, a third-degree felony. He was out on bail awaiting arraignment in the felony case when he was killed.

Since that latest arrest, a judge has extended Guerra’s probation stemming from the attack on Soto in December 2022, according to court records.

“Stop with all the stories”

Ugly accusations have been flying back and forth on social media all week. Some publications claimed that Soto attacked Guerra. Corona and Delgado said the opposite was true: she was “defending herself.”

Photos were circulated showing a pregnant Soto with Guerra smiling as she displayed wads of cash.

Soto “was materialistic, but at the same time she knew where we were coming from,” Corona said. “She would eat ramen if she didn’t have anything. People don’t know – if they knew my grandparents they wouldn’t say anything.’

One of Guerra’s family members took to Facebook to ask people to “stop all the narratives” surrounding what happened to Guerra and Soto. She stressed that three loved ones had been lost – Soto, Guerra and their unborn baby boy, Fabian – and that both families were grieving.

Guerra’s older brother said on social media: “Everyone is making us out as if we had something to do with the disappearance of my brother and my sister-in-law, and first of all, we don’t. We have nothing to do with it. We promise you all. I don’t like how the internet makes us look like criminals.

Pedro Soto, right, Savannah's father, comforts Rachel Soto, left, Savannah's grandmother, at a vigil for the teenager who was found dead Tuesday afternoon with her boyfriend, Matthew Guerra, 22. Both were killed by gunshot wounds to the head.

Pedro Soto, right, Savannah’s father, comforts Rachel Soto, left, Savannah’s grandmother, at a vigil for the teenager who was found dead Tuesday afternoon with her boyfriend, Matthew Guerra, 22. Both were killed by gunshot wounds to the head.

Salgu Wissmath/San Antonio Express-News

“You shouldn’t have done that”

In Gabriel Guerra’s home in the Helot area, a large Christmas wreath hung in front of the window. The father takes call after call from relatives and funeral home officials.

“He’s had some issues,” Guerra said of his son. But he said he didn’t know anyone who would want to harm him.

He said he no longer looks at social media because there is so much misinformation about the case.

“We’re just going to let the police do their investigation and we’re not going to give any more interviews,” Guerra said.

Corona made an emotional appeal for help in finding his sister’s killers.

“You shouldn’t have done that to Vana,” he said. “We won’t stop until they find you.”

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