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DeSoto woman saw good in everyone — even the man who murdered her, family says as killer sentenced

Mason Varela, 21, was remembered in court for her optimism and kind spirit by family and friends.

By Krista M. Torralva

court hammer
DMN File Photo Credit: Andy Jacobsohn / Staff Photographer

Mason Varela saw good in everyone. She even saw good in the man who became her killer.

This is how relatives tearfully remembered Varela after a Dallas County judge sentenced her former boyfriend, Matthew Gonzalez, to 40 years in prison on Thursday for her murder.

Gonzalez, 22, pleaded guilty to murder in exchangefor the sentence. Varela was 21 and a student at Mountain View College when she was killed Dec. 2, 2019. She broke up with Gonzalez a few weeks before.

Friends, relatives and teachers addressed Gonzalez in a packed courtroom and described the impact her killing has had on countless people. A few family members said Gonzalez deserved a lengthier sentence after state District Judge Jeanine Howard accepted the agreement betweenprosecutors and Gonzalez.

Matthew Shane Gonzalez
Matthew Shane Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the murder of Mason Varela in exchange for 40 years in prison.

DeSoto police said Gonzalez waited for Varela to return home from walking her dog and attacked her from behind with a knife. Her stepfather saw Gonzalez right after the murder and Varela repeatedly said “It was Matthew” as she struggled for life, police said.

Her mother and younger brother were homeduring the attackand the family called police. Yvonne Pintor, Varela’s mother, said her daughter’s screams are embedded in their minds.

Pintor said she hopes they’ll haunt Gonzalez in prison.

“I hope you, too, will not be able to take that scream out of your head, and I hope that scream will drive you insane,” Pintor said to Gonzalez.

At the same time, she said she prays for Gonzalez. She prays that he’ll grow close to God.

“There is a Satan and you allowed him to enter your mind,” Pintor said. “I pray that God will touch your heart.”

‘Just starting to see what the world was like’

Varela cared for Gonzalez and wanted to focus on the good in him even when he was jealous, controlling and manipulative, friends and family said. She was finally moving forward after ending the relationship and seemed happy, they said.

“She was just starting to see what the real world was like,” said her cousin Mackenzie Garcia, who cried as she spoke.

Gonzalez looked down to his lap as her loved ones spoke, except for when Varela’s mother asked him to look at her and when her father pointed to him and made a motion to look at him. Varela’s father did not address Gonzalez directly, but stood next to his sister as she spoke.

Gonzalez wanted to speak and apologize for the pain he caused, said his lawyer Robert Hernandez. Defendants typically don’t speak during victim impact statements. It is a time for those affected by crimes to speak to the convicted person.

“His plea today shows that he accepts full responsibility for his actions. I imagine he will be remorseful for the rest of his life,” Hernandez said.

Varela was bright and beloved, said two teachers from Dallas Academy High School who brought letters from three other educators. Varela was elected homecoming queen and “most likely to succeed” before she graduated from high school in 2018. Her teachers said they had looked forward to keeping up with her accomplishments.

She aspired to travel and establish a career in the veterinary field before, one day, having children, relatives said.

“Mason was a very special young lady full of life, dreams and innocence,” her aunt Maria Pintor told Gonzalez. She propped up photos on the witness stand of her niece in a graduation cap and lying in the grass with a soccer ball.

“You deprived Mason of growing into the beautiful woman she was becoming.”

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