MARTINEZ — After a few hours of deliberations, a Contra Costa County jury convicted a San Pablo man of two murder charges, related to the 2016 shooting death of an 18-year-old pregnant woman.
Luis Javier Morales Jr., 23, now faces an automatic sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Jurors convicted him Monday of two first degree murder counts, as well as attempted murder and shooting into an occupied car. He was also convicted of a special circumstances enhancement of lying in wait.
The victim, 18-year-old Ilyasia “Lay Lay” McCoy, was seven months pregnant when Morales shot her in the back shoulder on Sept. 5, 2016, outside of her ex-boyfriend’s San Pablo home. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree Morales was not aiming at McCoy.
Earlier in the day, McCoy and a group of friends had confronted the new girlfriend of McCoy’s ex at a convenience store. McCoy’s group of friends recruited Morales and two other men as backup, then drove to the 1700 block of 17th Street to confront the ex-boyfriend.
When they got there, McCoy was talking to two other men in front of the house when prosecutors say Morales jumped out of a car — parked a half block away — and fired six times, striking McCoy in the back. She and her unborn daughter died later that day.
During trial, prosecutors painted Morales as a brash young man who had something to prove, drove to the house with deadly intentions, and killed the wrong person. Defense attorneys said Morales fired to protect McCoy after hearing an initial gunshot, and disputed gunfire sensor data that only detected the six shots fired by Morales.
Morales’ attorney also argued that prosecutors could prove McCoy was killed by a bullet he fired.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours on Thursday and three hours on Monday before reaching a verdict.
In 2004, then-President George W. Bush signed a bill that made it a separate crime to kill or harm a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman, and California law allows for murder charges to be filed for the death of a fetus when a pregnant woman is killed. That same year, Modesto resident Scott Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death in the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son, Conner.
Contra Costa prosecutors have previously used the law to secure an 80 years to life sentence against Montlavin Manor resident Robert Hernandez in the 2007 shooting death of Luz Aguilar-Bucio, 32, and her 3-month-old fetus, near Pinole.