When I saw there was a hearing Friday aimed at dismissing a murder count against Marissa Starr Bilotti for her role in the fatal shooting of a man in Huntington Beach's Murdy Park four years ago, I wondered if it had something to do with the claims of her innocence from friends and family members over the years.
But the 23-year-old, who famously married and later divorced a defendant in a different murder from behind bars, instead pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and other counts and was immediately sentenced to eight years and four months in prison. Her co-defendant Derek Christopher Adams, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in August 2012 and had that conviction upheld by appellate justices in March, is already serving 46 years to life for the Oct. 22, 2010, slaying of 35-year-old Gregory Ryan Heintz.
I've written about the slaying of Heintz several times, and I still have a hard time following it because of all the players involved. Here's the account prosecutor Sonia Balleste presented to jurors, according to City News Service:
The night before the shooting, Adams and his "friend with benefits" Bilotti exchanged angry text messages with Adams' ex-girlfriend, Lauren Schneider. Schneider asked Adams to stop harassing her, but the next morning Bilotti drove him and friends Lauriel Sellers and Brandon Perry over to where Schneider was staying, the Newport Beach home of her new boyfriend Cody Mosher, who'd been targeted with a beating by Adams.
He kicked in the door and dragged out Mosher, who was sleeping off a night of drug use, while Bilotti squared off to fight with Schneider, who was hysterical. A spooked Sellers hung back in Bilotti's SUV and Perry went on to restrain Adams, who took Mosher's phone and spit on Schneider. Mosher sustained a stab wound but he did not call police because he was on parole for drug use.
Mosher and Schneider sent text messages to the stolen phone asking that it be returned and later went to the Garden Grove home of Heintz and his wife to tell them what happened. After getting a five-shot revolver from his father's home, Adams instructed Mosher and Schneider to meet him in Murdy Park to get the phone back.
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With her SUV's license plate covered with a rag, Bilotti drove Adams to the park early and, with a knife hidden in her vagina, waited an hour with him for Schneider to arrive. Heintz drove Schneider to the park around 3 p.m., got out and approached Adams with his arms up, saying, "What's up?" Adams whipped out the revolver, fatally shot Heintz in the gut and ran back to the SUV that was driven off by waiting Bilotti. She drove a short distance, pulled over to remove the rag covering the plate, and continued on before being pulled over. Both were arrested.
While behind bars awaiting trial for murder, Bilotti learned from a friend serving time with her about 26-year-old Iftekhar Murtaza, who was awaiting trial for killing his ex-girlfriend's father and sister and nearly killing her mother. Bilotti and Murtaza would begin exchanging letters and, after sheriff's jailers dropped their objections, the couple was allowed to marry behind bars in June 2011. But they would get a quickie divorce, and Murtaza was later convicted by a jury that would recommend the death penalty.
With the murder count and a sentencing enhancement for use of a deadly weapon dismissed, Bilotti copped to voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury, first-degree burglary and a sentencing enhancement for being armed with a gun in the commission of a felony.