Busi­ness­man gets life term for shot­gun mur­der

Ezeoma Obioha killed woman on Hol­ly­wood side­walk. She’d done mar­ket­ing for him.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Ni­cole Santa Cruz

The last time Bernard Melvin heard from his daugh­ter Car­rie, she was call­ing him to wish him a happy birth­day.

It was the summer of 2015, and she was liv­ing in Hol­ly­wood and start­ing her own so­cial me­dia busi­ness. She told him she was the hap­pi­est she had ever been and loved her life.

Weeks later, her fa­ther re­ceived unimag­in­able news.

Car­rie had been killed by a man who fired a shot­gun blast at her face as she walked with her boyfriend to a Thai restau­rant in Hol­ly­wood.

On Mon­day, Bernard Melvin stood in a down­town Los An­ge­les court­room mo­ments be­fore the man con­victed of his daugh­ter’s mur­der was sen­tenced to life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

Telling his wife and rel­a­tives that his 30-year-old daugh­ter was dead was the “hard­est thing” he has ever done, Melvin said.

“I feel as though I have lost a limb,” he said, his voice cracking. Since then, he said, he has held his wife as she cried her­self to sleep, and shed tears with Car­rie’s boyfriend.

“I have tried to an­swer my family’s ques­tions, but how do you ex­plain a com­pletely sense­less act? We cry ev­ery day,” Melvin said.

The vic­tim’s older brother, Ryan, said Ezeoma Chigozie Obioha’s in­sis­tence that he is in­no­cent com­pounded the family’s grief. He said he ex­pe­ri­ences re­cur­ring night­mares about his sis­ter’s mur­der.

“Ev­ery day it hurts when I wake up and re­al­ize she is gone,” he said.

Obioha, who was con-

victed last year of first-de­gree mur­der, sat show­ing no emo­tion.

At one point dur­ing the hear­ing, Obioha’s sis­ter, Nkechi How­ell, stood up and yelled, “You’ve con­victed an in­no­cent man, an in­no­cent man!”

She ran out of the court­room, fol­lowed by court bailiffs. After the hear­ing, Su­pe­rior Court Judge Robert J. Perry scolded How­ell, call­ing her be­hav­ior “in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Pros­e­cu­tors al­leged that Obioha acted after Car­rie Melvin spurned his ro­man­tic in­ter­est in her and then filed a com­plaint with state of­fi­cials al­leg­ing that he owed her more than $1,000 for work she had done mar­ket­ing his cloth­ing line on so­cial me­dia.

The morn­ing after the killing, a boy play­ing on the beach in Mal­ibu found Obioha’s Moss­berg 12-gauge shot­gun un­der a rock. Ly­ing nearby was an un­usual shot­gun shell, iden­ti­cal to an ex­pended shell found at the crime scene: a white Rio Royal Grand 12-gauge, 00 buck shell with the head stamp “glob­al­shot.com,” pros­e­cu­tors said.

Ju­rors de­lib­er­ated about a day be­fore con­vict­ing Obioha and find­ing true the spe­cial-cir­cum­stance al­le­ga­tion that he com­mit­ted mur­der for fi­nan­cial gain. De­fense at­tor­neys plan to file an ap­peal.

Obioha’s de­fense at­tor­neys had ar­gued that the shot­gun shells, as well as the gun, were planted. A blast from a Rio Royal shell would have caused more wounds to the vic­tim’s face, they ar­gued.

And they at­tacked a six­man pho­to­graphic lineup that two wit­nesses — Melvin’s boyfriend and a se­cu­rity guard who saw the at­tack — used to iden­tify Obioha as the gun­man.

After the guard de­scribed the shooter as “ab­nor­mally dark,” he pointed out two pos­si­ble sus­pects from the lineup. One was Obioha, whose photo was the dark­est in the lineup.

“That is ma­nip­u­lated,” at­tor­ney Dana Cole told ju­rors dur­ing the trial, re­fer­ring to the photo. “That is to­tally ma­nip­u­lated, and it’s just not right.”

Obioha’s mother also told ju­rors that her son was at home the night of the slay­ing. Deputy Dist. Atty. Michelle Hanisee sug­gested that Obioha’s family had lied and fab­ri­cated ev­i­dence to pro­tect him.

De­fense at­tor­neys down­played the idea of a fi­nan­cial mo­tive for Obioha by show­ing ju­rors a re­ceipt in­di­cat­ing that he paid Melvin $1,740 in cash on the same day he wrote the $1,620 check that didn’t clear.

But Hanisee called the re­ceipt book “fishy.”

Obioha’s sis­ter found it after her brother’s ar­rest, and the May 2, 2015, en­try in Obioha’s re­ceipt book was out of chrono­log­i­cal or­der. The ob­vi­ous con­clu­sion, Hanisee said, was that the re­ceipt was fab­ri­cated.

“Ev­ery scrap of ev­i­dence that points to any­one points to him,” Hanisee told the jury. And the prose­cu­tor noted that it wasn’t un­til Novem­ber 2016 that Pauline Obioha said for the first time that her son was with her on the night of the killing.

“I think at some point, her mom in­stincts over­took her,” Hanisee told ju­rors.

In phone calls from jail, she added, Obioha gave his family dif­fer­ent ex­pla­na­tions about what hap­pened to his gun.

First, he said that it had been stolen. Then, that Melvin’s boyfriend had taken it to set him up. Lastly, he said it had been planted by an ocean pho­tog­ra­pher who wanted his Instagram and Face­book ac­counts fea­tured on the news, the prose­cu­tor said.

In court, the vic­tim’s fa­ther said that after sit­ting through the trial and hear­ing the ev­i­dence, he’s con­vinced that Obioha was the per­son who killed his daugh­ter. He urged Obioha to ac­cept the sen­tence.

“I had to hear and see things in the trial that no par­ent should have to see,” he said.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

DE­FEN­DANT Ezeoma Chigozie Obioha, right, lis­tens with at­tor­ney Meghan Blanco in court Mon­day.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

EZEOMA CHIGOZIE OBIOHA ar­rives for his sen­tenc­ing. In 2015, he fired a shot­gun at Car­rie Melvin, 30, as she walked to a restau­rant with her boyfriend.

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