After two days of deliberations, a jury found a couple guilty of first-degree murder in connection with a December 2013 killing at the Vagabond Inn in south Fresno.
Cosmen Alvarez, 35, and his girlfriend, Yolanda Aviles, 47, showed no emotion when the verdicts were announced in Fresno County Superior Court.
They face life in prison when they are sentenced on June 16.
They were convicted of killing Jose Santos Villa, 36, who was unarmed when he was shot seven times outside the Vagabond Inn near Highway 99 and Jensen Avenue on Dec. 22, 2013, prosecutor Sam Dalesandro told the jury.
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The couple also was convicted of kidnapping Villa’s friend. Dalesandro said the couple held a gun to the friend’s head and ordered him to tell them of Villa’s whereabouts.
In addition, Alvarez was convicted of assault with a firearm for pistol-whipping Villa’s pregnant girlfriend at the time of the fatal shooting.
Police said Villa was killed in a dispute over money and drugs. Police recovered three pounds of marijuana from Villa’s car after the fatal shooting.
Alvarez and Aviles left Fresno after the killing. They were arrested in Hollywood on New Year’s Eve by the Los Angeles Police Department.
During the trial, Alvarez testified that he shot Villa, telling jurors that Villa owed him more than $30,000. The money was owed for 20 pounds of pot he said Villa took from him.
Alvarez told the jury that although the drug debt had been forgiven, Villa had been threatening to kill his family in Madera. He testified that is why he shot Villa, then left town.
Dalesandro told the jury that two of the seven shots hit the defenseless victim when he was face down in the parking lot.
Aviles did not testify. Although she never held the gun, she played a key role in the killing by acting as the lookout and getaway driver, Dalesandro told the jury.