Netflix’s latest true-crime documentary, Why Did You Kill Me, premiered Wednesday — and if you missed the answer to the question of who killed Crystal Theobald, you’ve come to the right place. (Warning: Spoilers follow).
Who Was Crystal Theobald?
She was a 24-year-old mother of two living in Riverside, California, when she was murdered on February 24, 2006, according to the documentary.
Crystal’s mother, Belinda Lane, describes her daughter as her “pride and joy,” and someone who loved adventures.
“She was my sunshine. She was my life,” Lane says. “She would do anything. She loved heights and rollercoasters.”
Lane also says that Theobold and her former husband lucked out at a casino one day and won enough money to start a business.
“She was so lucky at the casino that she went to a machine and put five dollars in it and won $38,000, and started an air conditioning and heating business with her husband. They just took off with it,” Lane says. “And then her husband fell back to drug use and to violence. And so Crystal left him and was back with us.”
Crystal’s little cousin, Jaime, also shared her memories of Crystal in Why Did You Kill Me.
“First memory of Crystal I have, she liked to play baby dolls with me,” she says. “She would make my playtime fun. She really did, she opened my imagination. She made sure that I knew that nothing’s impossible.”
How did Crystal Theobald die?
Crystal Theobald was shot by Julio “Lil Huero” Heredia, a member of a local gang called 5150, while riding in a car with her boyfriend and her brother, Justin Theobald, the doc explains.
Crystal was sitting in the front seat between her boyfriend and her brother, Justin Theobold. They were following Lane, who was driving ahead of them, according to the Durango Herald. Lane says they stopped at an intersection not far from their family home when a white Ford Expedition pulled up and a man got out and began shooting at them.
Manuel Lemus, a former 5150 gang member who was riding in the white Ford Expedition with Heredia and the driver, William “Jokes” Sotelo, that night, explains in the documentary that they had been circling the neighborhood looking to confront a rival gang they believe had shot at them earlier in the day.
Lemus describes seeing another white SUV parked on the street. It was driven by Crystal’s other brother, Robert Theobald, who was not involved in any gangs. As Robert explains in the doc, he was frightened by the men who were watching him in the white Ford Expedition and decided to quickly speed past them in an effort to get away.
According to the Riverside homicide detective who was in charge of Crystal’s case, Rick Wheeler, the Ford Expedition chased Robert’s SUV, because the people inside mistook him for a rival gang member.
Robert says he lost them and parked at his daughter’s mother’s house, believing that the strange ordeal was over.
But unfortunately for Robert and his family, the night was far from over.
What happened next, Wheeler explains, was that the Ford Expedition, having lost Robert, stopped at an intersection to wait — and that’s when Crystal’s mother pulled up with Crystal, her boyfriend, and her brother Justin following behind.
“They thought that this was rival gang members coming to attack them,” Wheeler says of Heredia, Sotelo, Lemus, and the rest of the gang members.
As Lemus tells it, Heredia got out of the Ford Expedition, walked into the middle of the road, and opened fire.
Crystal was shot in the back of the head and was taken to a hospital, where she died of her injuries, the doc explains.
Her boyfriend, who was not interviewed in the documentary, was shot in the stomach but survived, according to the Durango Herald.
Belinda Lane and Justin Theobald were not injured, according to the doc, which shows heartwrenching security footage of Justin cradling his sister in his lap in front of a grocery store as they waited for medics to arrive.
Were Crystal’s killers ever brought to justice?
Yes. As the documentary explains, Crystal’s mother and cousin made a fake MySpace account for a girl they called “Angel” using Crystal’s picture in the hopes of catfishing gang members they believed had information about Crystal’s murder. They were able to get enough information to help police find Sotelo, who was driving the white Ford Expedition that night. He was let go before police could make an arrest, and spent the next decade on the run in Mexico, where he was working as a chili farmer, according to the doc.
But Lane never gave up on tracking down every person involved in her daughter’s murder, and she received a tip about Sotelo’s whereabouts on Facebook that led to his arrest, according to the doc. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2020, the doc adds.
Heredia, the gunman, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for Crystal’s murder in 2011, the doc also explains. According to the Press-Examiner, ten other defendants who were charged in Theobald’s case have pleaded guilty to other counts including witness intimidation, attempted murder, and gun and gang charges, with sentences ranging from probation to 18 years behind bars.
Manuel Lemus and his brother, William-David Lemus, testified as witnesses against Heredia at his 2011 trial. They were not charged, according to the doc.
Why Did You Kill Me is now streaming on Netflix. Main Image: Crystal Theobald pictured in Netflix’s Why Did You Kill Me