The killer of a 28-year-old transgender activist who was choked out before her body was dumped behind an Anaheim Dairy Queen two years ago has been convicted of second-degree murder.
Randy Lee Parkerson, 40, is scheduled to be sentenced June 24, when he faces 15 years to life in state prison for slaying Zoraida "Ale" Reyes.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour and 15 minutes before returning the guilty verdict Monday, City News Service's Paul Anderson reports.
Parkerson, an unemployed methamphetamine user who routinely hooked up with men and transgender people via the Internet, met Reyes online, picked her up in Santa Ana on June 10, 2014, and negotiated for oral sex in his car for $10, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy.
But they moved on to another sex act that involved choking to deprive the recipient of oxygen to heighten sexual pleasure, and when Parkerson noticed Reyes was not moving and had blood on her face, he pushed her farther down in the backseat, got behind the wheel and drove to a motel, McGreevy said.
Next Parkerson dragged the body into the car's trunk and drove around looking for a place to get rid of her, according to the prosecutor, who says Reyes was in the trunk for two days before she was eventually dumped in the DQ lot at 201 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim.
That's where she was found on June 12, and who killed her remained a mystery for months.
As part of a DUI conviction, Parkerson had to provide a DNA sample. This led to a match that made him a person of interest in the Reyes killing. He became the prime suspect after a beer can he discarded while under surveillance had DNA that matched evidence collected at the crime scene, McGreevy says. Parkerson was arrested in October 2014.
Further investigation revealed Parkerson's (not so) smartphone was used to search for information on second-degree murder, manslaughter and "how bad is it in prison," McGreevy said.
Parkerson's attorney Sara Nakada told jurors her client "never intended to kill" Reyes, calling it a "tragic accident" that left him "panicked."
"The furthest thing from Randy Parkerson's mind was killing Zoraida Reyes," Nakada says in Anderson's courtroom report. "What was on his mind was oral sex."
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Nakada claimed that when Parkerson became concerned about choking Reyes, she replied, "No, no, I like it. Keep going."
At a gathering of about 200 that ended at Sasscer Park in Santa Ana on June 13, 2014, mourners who included Reyes' mother and friends in the activist community offered flowers, prayers and testimonies in remembering her life.
A program for the vigil noted Reyes as born in Michoacán. She later migrated to Santa Ana, going through Century High School, Santa Ana College and UC Santa Barbara. As an undocumented student, she became involved as an activist with the Orange County DREAM Team (OCDT) and DeColores Queer Orange County.
Other vigils were held shortly after the OC gathering in Phoenix and San Francisco.