Homicide detectives found that Christy's phone was missing but obtained records from Sprint and Google. The Sprint records showed the last call received from Christy's phone belonged to a marine by the name of Rafael Aikens. The Google records showed that Christy's phone moved away from her home at the same time Zariah was calling 911 and the phone ended up at the marine base right near the barracks building Aikens lived in. Aikens was arrested but denied involvement.
Fellow marines were interviewed including one who said the day after the murders, Aikens gave him his pistol and asked him if he could take it home off the base and clean it. Additionally, another marine told detectives a couple weeks later that Aikens had said he had killed two people but that at the time he didn't believe he was being serious. The defendant's gun was compared to an FCC and bullet located at the scene and came back as a match.
At trial, the defendant took the stand and testified that he called the victim that night to catch up but that the two of them never talked. When confronted with evidence that his phone had been erased when detectives took possession of it, he stated that he downloaded pornography on the phone which caused a phone wiping virus. The jury did not believe his testimony.
After less than an hour of deliberations, the jury convicted the defendant of both counts of first-degree murder plus multiple allegations.A fantastic job by Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker of the Victorville office!
We also owe a great big, "Job well done" to Deputy District Attorney Jason Wilkinson of the Victorville office for his outstanding work in the first-degree murder verdicts in the case of People v. Mercado & Cummings. The three-month long trial featured dual juries and a host of legal issues related to SB 1437.
On August 9, 2017, at approximately 7:20 PM, a car driven by defendant Reyna Mercado and occupied by defendant Danielle Cummings and defendant Anthony Pitts, arrived at the residence of the victim's mother, Maesha McCullers. The three suspects stopped at Turner's Outdoorsman to purchase shotgun shells minutes before.
Upon arrival at McCullers' residence, Defendant Pitts exited the car with a shotgun. Defendant Pitts fired the shotgun at McCullers' residence several times. The shotgun blasts struck 12-year old victim Makiya Walls inside the residence. Defendant Pitts ran back to defendant Mercado's car, which was waiting in the street, and Defendant Mercado drove away. Panic ensued at McCullers' residence as neighbors attempted CPR on Makiya to no avail. Makiya died of injuries sustained from the gunshot wounds. All defendants gave statements admitting varying degrees of culpability.The body of Makiya Walls was autopsied on August 22, 2017 at 9:30 AM. During the autopsy, Dr. Brian Hutchins found the body suffered 9 gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. The cause of death was determined to be a homicide.
Thank you to Justin, Jason and the many support personnel for their hard work and dedication to the office that helped to ensure a successful outcome on both of these trials.