Los Angeles Times

Prosecutor cites clues in slaying of woman

Jury hears about a shotgun found on the beach and a bounced check in Hollywood street murder trial.

- By Alene Tchekmedyi­an alene.tchekmedyi­an @latimes.com

Carrie Jean Melvin and her boyfriend were walking to a Thai restaurant in their bustling Hollywood neighborho­od one July evening last year when they heard footsteps behind them.

When they turned to look, a man in dark, baggy clothing raised a black pistol-grip shotgun. Wordlessly, he fired one round into her face from about 10 feet away and fled.

In opening statements Wednesday in the trial of the man charged with murdering her, a prosecutor told a downtown Los Angeles jury that the mysterious gunman was Ezeoma Obioha, a security guard at a marijuana dispensary and the owner of a clothing line who owed Melvin money for marketing services and had developed a romantic interest in her.

Days before the killing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Hanisee told jurors, Obioha had been notified that Melvin filed a claim with the state Labor Commission after his $1,620 check — for 87 hours of work she did — bounced.

After the attack, detectives interviewe­d Melvin’s boyfriend, Anyimalik Howell. They asked whether anyone had a beef with Melvin.

The first person who came to Howell’s mind was someone he’d never met, a man he knew as “EZ” who had stiffed her out of wages, Hanisee said. Weeks later, he fingered Obioha from a photo lineup as the gunman, the prosecutor said. Howell had a “visceral” reaction when he saw Obioha’s photograph, Hanisee said.

But Obioha’s defense attorney said his client had paid Melvin for her work, and he showed the jury a receipt for a $1,740 cash payment.

A father of two who ran track at Beverly Hills High School before serving in the Army and attending Morehouse College, Obioha, 32, had no motive to kill Melvin, said attorney Jamon Hicks. Obioha was an entreprene­ur whose sisters attended Ivy League schools, he said.

“That’s the cloth that he’s cut from,” Hicks said.

The defense lawyer attacked the credibilit­y of the identifica­tion made by the victim’s boyfriend. On the night of the attack, Hicks said, Howell told police he couldn’t see the shooter over the gun barrel. Melvin’s boyfriend had three weeks to find out who “EZ” was and what he looked like before picking him from the lineup, Hicks said.

The prosecutor said there was other evidence that pointed to Obioha. At the scene of the killing, Hanisee said, police recovered an unusual shotgun shell, one that’s hard to find for sale in Los Angeles: a white Rio Royal Grand 12gauge 00-buck shell with a head stamp that reads “globalshot.com.”

The following morning, a boy playing on the beach in Malibu found a Mossberg 12gauge shotgun under a rock near Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard, a spot in the ocean that Hanisee suggested was a simple journey from the crime scene about 18 miles away.

“If you drive right down Sunset to PCH, that’s where you end up,” she said.

A serial number on the weapon revealed it was registered to Obioha, Hanisee said. Records show he purchased it from a gun shop in Georgia and never reported it stolen, she told jurors.

Lying an arm’s length away from the gun, she said, was a white Rio Royal shot shell that matched the type found at the crime scene. Stamped on the shell was “globalshot.com.”

Hicks said the gun found at the beach was not the murder weapon. Tests conducted to link the gun to the shooting came back inconclusi­ve.

 ??  ?? CARRIE JEAN MELVIN was shot and killed last year while walking in Hollywood.
CARRIE JEAN MELVIN was shot and killed last year while walking in Hollywood.

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