An Army veteran convicted of killing a teenage friend's mother and stepfather and a third person to free her from what he perceived as an abusive family situation was sentenced Friday to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Joshua Charles Acosta, 23, was a private first class in the Army stationed in Fort Irwin at the time of the shooting deaths. He was convicted in the September 2016 killings of 39-year-old Jennifer Goodwill-Yost, her husband, 34-year-old Christopher Yost, and their friend, 28-year-old Arthur William Boucher, in the couple's Fullerton home.
According to authorities, the group became friends through the "Furry" and "Brony" communities. The "furries" like to dress up as "anthropomorphic" animals in "mascot" costumes and "bronies" are adult men who are fans of the "My Little Pony" cartoons for children.
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Acosta's co-defendant, Frank Felix, of Sun Valley, is awaiting trial next year.
Acosta told police he decided on his own to kill the mother and stepfather of his friend, then-17-year-old Kaitlynn Goodwill-Yost, according to a recording of the law enforcement interrogation played for jurors. Acosta told police that Felix and his girlfriend, Kaitlyn, left her Fullerton home in the 400 block of South Gilbert Street before he "went to work."
Armed with a shotgun, Acosta killed Boucher, who was staying overnight as he would do occasionally, on the couch in the front room, then went to the master bedroom to kill Jennifer Goodwill-Yost in her bed. He then gunned down the third victim as Yost was attempting to get out the back door to the yard, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino.
Acosta, who was an Army mechanic, bought bolt cutters and ear plugs on the night of the murders, according to Pino, who said the defendant told police he cut off a security cable on Felix's father's gun and used that weapon to commit the killings.
Kaitlynn's two sisters, one 6 years old and the other 9, found the bodies in the morning. They were home at the time of the slayings, relatives said.
Jurors heard the 6-year-old girl's 911 call. At one point, the child tells the dispatcher, "My dad is in the backyard dead and my mom is dead in bed..."
Police zeroed in quickly on Kaitlynn Goodwill-Yost and her friends because she was missing when the bodies were found, Pino said. At the time, he said her friends didn't know whether she was kidnapped, dead or a part of the killings.
When they found Acosta at Fort Irwin, he had three bullet casings in his shorts but initially "lied and denied" about his role as the gunman, the prosecutor said.
"There was a plan to emancipate (Kaitlynn) from her family because she was unhappy with her parents," Pino said.
Kaitlynn Goodwill-Yost has been granted "use immunity," which means prosecutors cannot use her testimony against her in the case, according to the prosecutor, who said she has claimed "she had no idea her parents and Billy were going to be murdered." She has also claimed that Yost molested her and that her mother "physically abused her," Pino said.