[UPDATED] Edgar Calvillo Loses Appeal in Murder After Spat Over Girl and Vandalized Car

UPDATE, MARCH 28, 1:39 P.M.:

The same day the third and final defendant was sentenced in the 2008 shooting death of a 22-year-old Lake Forest father, the shooter in that case lost an appeal over his confession.

The California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, disagreed with the contentions of Edgar Calvillo's lawyers that their client confessed involuntarily and was improperly read his Miranda rights. Appellate justices confirmed the trial court's murder conviction and the judge's sentence of 40 years to life in state prison for the 22-year-old Santa Ana resident.

According to court documents, a day after the murder of Luis Alejandro Rivera, Calvillo engaged in small talk with Orange County sheriff's investigators, who did not bring up the crime on the way to a police interrogation room.

In the room, Calvillo, who was not handcuffed, was introduced by sheriff's investigator Spencer to investigators Terry Todd and Ray Wert. Spencer told Calvillo: ""Like I told you before, honest, truthful, everything's going to be all right. Start playing games with us, it doesn't look good. You know what I'm saying?" Spencer then apparently left the room because he does not pop up again in the recording of the interrogation that was later played for jurors at trial.

"Obviously, it's very serious, okay?" Wert tells Calvillo. "And, we don't want to waste any time. We don't want to waste any more time tonight."

Wert then read Calvillo his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present, etc. Calvillo said he understood all these rights. The officers did not ask him if he waived these rights, the court documents indicate.
Calvillo went on to give a complete account of what happened before and after the shooting. He even told the investigators where the rifle was located (in his bedroom), where he had bought it (a hunting store) and how he practiced with it in the desert.
"Do you know how bad you hurt him?" Todd asked.

"I don't even know if I got him or not," Calvillo replied.

"Well, you winged him," Todd informed.

Calvillo had been accompanied by

Alfredo "Freddy" Cruz, 23, of Aliso Viejo, and Santos Escamilla, 22, of Santa Ana, that fateful night. Calvillo told the sheriff's investigators that Cruz asked him why he shot Rivera, and Calvillo answered that he did not think he "got him." The trio figured no one would investigate the shooting since Rivera was not hit.
"We're just trying to figure out why you're the only guy that wants to take the fall on this," Todd told Calvillo.

"I'm not taking the fall for it," Calvillo answered. "I'm telling you exactly what happened."

After the shooting, at Calvillo's home, he told investigators Cruz panicked and told him, "I can't believe you did that."

Calvillo said he replied, "Well, regardless if I did do that, [it will not] get to you. I didn't do anything to you. It's going to happen to me."


That was followed by this key exchange in the interrogation room:

"Investigator Wert: Do you know he's dead?

"[Defendant]: No, he's not dead. I know he's not dead.
"Investigator Wert: He's dead.
"[Defendant]: He's dead?
"Investigator Wert: Yep.
"[Defendant]: He's not dead.
"Investigator Wert: He's dead. . . . I wouldn't lie to you, man.
"Investigator Todd: Do you read English?
"[Defendant]: Yeah.
"Investigator Terry Todd: This says homicide. We work homicide.
"Investigator Wert: He's dead.
"Investigator Todd: Yeah. You caught him once. I told you you winged him."

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Calvillo's lawyers filed an appeal claiming their client never waived his Miranda rights, that he was youthful during the interview, that the officers promised him leniency and that his Miranda and Fifth Amendment rights were violated.

Noting that Calvillo is making an issue out of his Miranda rights for the first time in his appeal, the justices wrote in affirming the trial court ruling:

The record reflects defendant was willing to speak with the officers and to take responsibility for his decision to bring a gun to Lake Forest and shoot at the victim. He said he was not taking the fall for his cohorts, but simply stating what happened. He did not want Freddie to be punished for defendant's actions; defendant's emphasis on this point suggests it motivated, at least in part, his confession. In contrast, the record reveals no causal link between (1) defendant's choice to confess and (2) his youth and unfamiliarity with interrogation, or any police pressure. The record does not reflect that defendant's youth and unfamiliarity with the legal system prevented him from understanding the investigators' statements and questions. And although Investigator Spencer's statement (that things would be all right if defendant told the truth) was vague and might be interpreted as a veiled offer of leniency, defendant was promptly told by the interrogating officers (as opposed to Spencer, who was not present during the interview) that his statements could be used against him in court. Defendant stated he understood. Moreover, the trial court listened to the recording of Spencer's statement, heard the tenor and inflection of his voice, and impliedly found the officer made no improper promise of leniency to defendant. In sum, defendant's confession was voluntary and the court did not err by denying his Evidence Code section 402 to suppress his statement.


The same day the justices filed their ruling, Cruz was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison. A jury in December found him guilty of one felony count of second-degree murder. That's the same sentence given to Escamilla , who pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in Rivera's slaying.
 

UPDATE, MARCH 25, 3:43 P.M.:

The third and final defendant convicted in the 2008 shooting death of a 22-year-old Lake Forest father received a sentence today of 15 years to life in state prison.

A jury in December found Alfredo "Freddy" Cruz, 23, of Aliso Viejo, guilty of one felony count of second-degree murder.

Cruz, who drove the shooter and another man to the home of the victim, became angered when their target told his neighbors the trio had vandalized his car in a dispute over Cruz's girlfriend.

The late Luis Alejandro Rivera, with his son Isik.
Luis Alejandro Rivera

, the father of a then-17-month-old son, died in his mother

YolandaRivera

's arms outside his apartment.

"I have been scarred with a wound that is impossible to heal in a mother's heart," she told the court today, according to an Orange County district attorney's office statement. "Every day is a struggle and a constant reminder of his absence."

A friend and neighbor of Rivera, speaking on behalf of his family, said the defendants robbed Rivera's son Isik of his father.

"Time doesn't heal," she explained. "We just move on with a hole in our hearts which never seems to get filled."

Cruz received the same sentence as his buddy, 22-year-old Santa Anan Santos Escamilla, who pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Shooter Edgar Calvillo, 22, of Santa Ana, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison .

UPDATE, DEC. 16, 2010, 3:35 P.M.: 24-year-old Alfredo "Freddy" Cruz was convicted today of murdering Luis Rivera outside the young father's Lake Forest home. Cruz could get up to 15 years to life in state prison at the Lake Forest resident's sentencing scheduled for Feb. 18 in Santa Ana.

Cruz is the third and final defendant convicted in the shooting over a dispute about his girlfriend and the vandalizing of 22-year-old Rivera's car.

The father of a 17-month-old boy died in his mother's arms.

UPDATE, DEC. 13, 2010, 8:43 A.M.: A jury found Edgar Calvillo guilty of murdering Lake Forest father Luis Alejandro Rivera in November 2009, and the now 22-year-old Santa Ana resident was later sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison. Calvillo's partner, Santos Escamilla, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the same case, and that now 22-year-old Santa Ana resident got 15 years in the can.

This morning, the murder trial begins for a third man in the Rivera slaying: Alfredo "Freddy" Cruz, now 24, of Aliso Viejo.

Cruz pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

In the spring of 2008, after telling his neighbors that Calvillo, Escamilla and Cruz had vandalized his car in a dispute involving Cruz's girlfriend, Rivera was shot outside his apartment, where he died in his mother's arms. He was 22.

The Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) Office statement on today's trial opening ends this post.
 

ORIGINAL, UPDATED POST, FEB. 26, 2010, 12:30 P.M.: Edgar Calvillo, 21, of Santa Ana, was sentenced today to 40 years to life in state prison for the shooting and murder of Luis Rivera.

Rivera had told people in his Lake Forest neighborhood in spring 2008 that Edgar Calvillo, Santos Escamilla, also 21 and of Santa Ana, and Alfredo Cruz, 23, of Aliso Viejo, had vandalized his car over a dispute involving Cruz's girlfriend.

A short time later, 22-year-old Rivera died in his mother's arms, the victim of a shooting outside his apartment.

Yolanda Rivera told the court at today's sentencing that it was a total tragedy to lose her son and watch him die in her arms, according to a statement released by the OCDA.

"My son is not dead. He's with us," she reportedly stated.

She left the court to tend to the 3-year-old boy her son left behind, the boy she is now raising.



Before today's sentencing, Calvillo had been found guilty by a jury in November 2009 of one felony count of special circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for murder by drive-by shooting and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death.

Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh asked the judge to reduce the charge to second-degree murder and erase the enhancements because Calvillo had no previous record and immediately confessed to the shooting after his arrest, the Orange County Register reports.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey granted the request, which allowed for the 40-years-to-life term rather than life without the possibility of parole.

Escamilla and Cruz, who are each charged with one felony count of murder, face maximum sentences of 25 years to life in prison if convicted at their jury trial scheduled to begin April 12 in Santa Ana. Both are being held on $1 million bail.

The OCDA case laid out like this:

On the evening of March 20, 2008, a week after Rivera had made the claim to neighbors about Calvillo, Escamilla and Cruz, the trio waited in a parked car outside Rivera's home, got out when Rivera arrived and confronted him.

As Calvillo pointed a semiautomatic rifle at Rivera, Escamilia punched Rivera. A neighbor broke up the attack, and the three men got back in their car.

Calvillo allegedly fired several shots at Rivera as the car was driving off. One bullet struck Rivera and, after hearing the commotion and running outside, Yolanda Rivera arrived in time to cradle her son as he died in her arms.

Rivera's boy was 17 months old at the time.

The OCDA statement on the opening of the Cruz trial follows:

December 10, 2010

MAN FACES TRIAL FOR MURDERING VICTIM OUTSIDE OF LAKE FOREST HOME AFTER DISPUTE OVER HIS GIRLFRIEND
*Two co-defendants have been convicted in this case

SANTA ANA - A 24-year-old man faces trial Monday for the murder of a Lake Forest man outside of the victim's home after a dispute over the defendant's girlfriend and a vandalized car. Two co-defendants have been convicted and sentenced in this case. Alfredo Cruz, Aliso Viejo, is charged with one felony count of murder and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday, Dec. 13, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-44, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

Co-defendant Edgar Calvillo, 22, Santa Ana, was found guilty by a jury Nov. 25, 2009, of one felony count of special circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for murder by drive-by shooting and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. He was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison Feb. 26, 2010. Co-defendant Santos Escamilla, 22, Santa Ana, pleaded guilty Aug. 27, 2010, to one felony count each of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

On the evening of March 20, 2008, Cruz is accused of driving Calvillo and Escamilla to the Lake Forest home of 22-year-old Luis Rivera and parking outside of the house to wait for the victim. Calvillo brought a semi-automatic rifle with him in the car. The defendants are accused of waiting to confront Rivera because the victim had told people in the neighborhood that Calvillo, Escamilla, and Cruz had vandalized his car a week earlier over a dispute about Cruz's girlfriend. 

When Rivera arrived at his house, the three defendants are accused of getting out of their car and approaching the victim. Calvillo pointed the firearm at Rivera as Escamilla punched him. A neighbor came out of his home and tried to diffuse the attack, and the three defendants got back in their car to leave.

Cruz is accused of being the driver. As the defendants began to drive away, Calvillo pointed the firearm out of the car window and shot several times at Rivera, hitting him once. The victim's mother heard the shot from inside the house and ran out to find Rivera lying outside. The victim, who was father to a 17-month-old boy, died at the scene in his mother's arms.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.


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