Biloxi man gets life sentence for murder of Navy officer strangled in 2006

Published 11:31 pm Saturday, October 13, 2007

Miguel Bartolo has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 24-year-old woman in 2006.

Bartolo, who doesn’t speak English, was convicted Thursday in Harrison County Circuit Court for the death of Christy Ayala. Ayala drowned in Biloxi’s Back Bay outside the IP casino resort.

Prosecutors said the two argued over sex and Bartolo strangled her until she fainted, then dragged her body into the water.

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Assistant District Attorney Mark Ward said Bartolo stole Ayala’s cell phone. He used it, which is how investigators tracked him down in Houston, Texas, Ward said.

Circuit Judge Roger T. Clark gave Bartolo 10 years for the cell phone theft, to be served concurrent with a life sentence for murder.

Jail records show Bartolo, 22, is from Oaxaca, Mexico. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a hold on him, according to jail warden Don Cabana.

Prosecutors said Bartolo had been working on a construction job at the IP but had been fired. He has no Social Security number or driver’s license, Ward said.

Ayala was a Navy police officer at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport. She was awaiting deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

She was last seen alive at the IP the night of Feb. 17, 2006.

“They danced together, had a few drinks together at the Club IP and she voluntarily went outside with him when an argument over sex arose,” Ward said.

Bartolo did not testify at trial.