SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A 41-year-old Florida man was sentenced to 35 years-to-life in state prison today for his role in a drug deal turned bad.
In December 1994, defendant Demus Peterson and a second unidentified suspect agreed to sell 40-year-old Buster Shackleford and his female passenger crack cocaine.
According to Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Youngberg, who prosecuted the case, Shackleford was a cross-country truck driver from Florida who was stopping at the Beacon truck stop in Ontario on his way to deliver a load of lunchmeat to Los Angeles.
“The defendant and the second suspect climbed into the truck cab with the victim and passenger,” Youngberg said. “Rather than sell Buster and his passenger drugs, the two suspects robbed Buster and the passenger.”
During the robbery, Peterson shot Buster in the back. During this time, the female passenger was able to jump down from the cab and run away unharmed. No suspects were identified at the time of the crime, but the female passenger provided detailed descriptions of the suspects and their actions—including the defendant reaching up and grabbing the handrail in an attempt to enter the cab on the passenger side of the truck.
A latent fingerprint was pulled from the handrail at the 1994 crime scene but was not identified to any suspects. In 2010, the Ontario Police Department opened up numerous cold cases with latent fingerprints and re-ran them. After further review, the defendant’s print matched the latent from the handrail.
According to Youngberg, the passenger witness was then located out of state and shown a six-pack photographic line-up. The witness was able to pick the defendant out of the line-up 18 years later, and as a result, Peterson was located in Florida and arrested.
“The defendant’s criminal history showed an arrest four months after the 1994 murder,” Youngberg said. “He was found in possession of a revolver, which according to the witness description was the type of weapon likely used during the robbery and murder.”
Peterson did not testify at the trial. Numerous retired and current Ontario police officers, Los Angeles county detectives, a retired crime scene forensic specialist who pulled the latent in 1994 and other forensic specialists testified at trial.
On November 7, 2013, the defendant was convicted of first degree murder and a gun enhancement.