Clovis News

Trial starts in case of Fresno hotel room killing

The trial got under way Monday for two Fresno men who allegedly killed another man in a Fresno hotel room because they wanted to steal his money and valuable coins.

Brandon Patterson and Robert Garcia are charged in Fresno County Superior Court with killing Leonard Vivian because they learned he was carrying a large sum of money and had access to tens of thousands of dollars of gold and silver coins and cash, prosecutor Gabriel Brickey said.

Vivian, 25, was shot to death on April 29, 2011, in a hotel room at Highway 99 and Ashlan Avenue as the men allegedly delivered him $100 of methamphetamine bought for him by a female friend. The woman, Michelle Toner, testified Monday that she didn't bring the drugs back to the hotel room where Vivian was waiting.

Brickey said there wasn't any cash in the hotel room. He said the money and coins were hidden in a safe at a storage facility.

But Patterson's lawyer, Amy Guerra, said that a business card with a space number and code to the storage locker were in Vivian's possession but untouched by either of the defendants when they left the hotel monitored by surveillance cameras.

The week before he was murdered, Vivian showed Toner a backpack filled with cash and silver coins in a Blackstone Avenue motel room, she testified. Later estimates put the sum at $30,000.

Toner said she didn't know that Patterson and Garcia would return to the hotel after they dropped her off at an apartment about a mile away. She also said she didn't realize that they knew about money. Toner repeatedly said she never discussed Vivian's money with either Garcia or Patterson.

"We contend that there was no robbery and Mr. Patterson was never involved with committing a robbery," Guerra said. "He went back to deliver the drugs."

The attorney for co-defendant Garcia did not present an opening statement.

Toner testified that Vivian was a friend, not her boyfriend, but he gave her money or shared his drugs with her whenever she asked so she had no motive to want him dead.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, or @beebenjamin on Twitter.