What to Know
- Los Angeles Unified is being sued for negligence by a Van Nuys High School student, who says he was repeatedly harassed by a fellow student
- The plaintiff first became the target of his assailant, an alleged affiliate of the MS-13 gang, in January 2015
- The president has cited violence committed by MS-13 members to justify his hard-line immigration policies
A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a man's conviction for murdering his ex-girlfriend in downtown Los Angeles four days after she sought child support for their two young children.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal found the evidence "amply supports" a jury's finding of the special circumstance of murder while lying in wait against Oscar Cedano, who was convicted in November 2016 of first-degree murder.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, along with an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun. Sonia Soto, 27, was found slumped over the driver's steering wheel of her car in the 600 block of Santa Fe Avenue under the Sixth Street bridge on Jan. 17, 2014.
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She had been shot once behind her right ear. In a 12-page ruling, the appellate court justices found that the evidence "supports the reasonable inference that defendant watched and waited for Soto to exit her home so that he could intercept her at her car and leave the scene with her."
Soto had her seatbelt on, her foot on the brake pedal, her car engine running and music on inside the vehicle, with the evidence supporting a finding that once they stopped under the bridge "defendant immediately ambushed his vulnerable and unsuspecting victim from a position of advantage inside her car and shot her before she could escape or defend herself," the panel found.
Cedano was sentenced in May 2017 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At a hearing shortly before Cedano was sentenced, the victim's mother said she wanted Cedano to answer why he killed her daughter and "hurt us so badly."
"My entire family was kind to him," she said through a Spanish interpreter. "I will never forget my daughter."
The victim's older sister called her sister's killing "devastating."
"You didn't have to kill her," she said, speaking directly to Cedano and telling him that her sister was "too good" for him.
Cedano did not respond in court to either of the women.
Police found a binder with documents about a child support case in the vehicle, and Cedano's palm print was found on an exterior rear passenger door of Soto's car, which had been washed at a car dealership earlier that day, the appellate court panel noted.
Cedano's trial attorney, Simon Aval, said after the verdict that his client "did not do it" and said they were looking forward to the appellate process.