A Fresno man who believed he was going to be a victim of a drive-by shooting was convicted Wednesday of murder in the killing of his brother’s girlfriend in April.
Police said Eladio Cisneros Zambrano mistakenly shot at a car during the early hours of April 19 that he believed was being driven by a rival who was coming to his home to harm him because of a prior disturbance between them.
Instead, Zambrano ended up killing Sierra Kendra Berg, 23, of Fresno.
During the trial, prosecutor Gabriel Brickey told a Fresno County Superior Court jury that if Zambrano intended to kill someone, but shot someone else even by accident, the law says he still guilty of murder.
It was an ambush.
Prosecutor Gabriel Brickey
The jury of seven men and five women agreed, deliberating about 10 hours before finding Zambrano guilty of second-degree murder. Jurors also found Zambrano guilty of shooting at an occupied vehicle, being a felon in possession of a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition, assault with a firearm against Tyrod Hilliard, the father of Berg’s child, and shooting a gun in a negligent manner.
Zambrano faces at least 40 years to life when he sentenced on Dec. 18.
Berg was shot in the head with double-aught buckshot as she drove to the Zambrano home in the 4700 block of East Hedges Avenue near Chestnut and Olive avenues. Police found three expended shotgun shell casings and one live round.
After she was shot, her boyfriend, Eddie Zambrano, called 911 and urged her to live. “Come on girl, stay awake. Stay with me, you will make it,” according to videotape evidence from a police officer’s body camera that was played to the jury.
According to Brickey, Berg had taken Hilliard’s car on April 18, prompting Hilliard to hire an Uber driver to take him to the Zambrano home around 6 p.m., believing she was visiting her boyfriend. There, he got into a confrontation with Eladio Zambrano. In self-defense, Hilliard pulled out a knife and left, Brickey said.
But while he and the Uber driver were leaving, Eladio Zambrano fired a shot toward Hilliard, Brickey said.
Later that night, Hilliard and Eddie Zambrano exchanged text messages. In the messages, Eddie Zambrano expressed anger toward Hilliard for going to his home and fighting with his brother. Eddie Zambrano warned Hilliard not to come by the home and said he would get his car back from Berg.
But after he had been shot at, Brickey argued, Hilliard was too scared to return. Eddie Zambrano also told his brother to calm down and told him that “everything was under control” and that Hilliard was not going to return to the Zambrano home.
Sierra Kendra Berg, 23, was shot in the head on April 19 when she drove to the Zambrano home in the 4700 block of East Hedges Avenue near Chestnut and Olive avenues.
In defending Eladio Zambrano, attorney Linden Lindahl used a two-prong approach.
He told the jury that Eddie Zambrano had a reason to kill Berg; she was stalking and threatening him. That night, Berg made 84 phone calls to her boyfriend and sent him text messages, Lindahl said.
Police also found gunshot residue on Eddie Zambrano’s hands, Lindahl told the jury. Gunshot residue was on Eladio Zambrano’s hands but that came from firing at Hilliard, he said. “So where did Eddie get it?” Lindahl said.
But if Eladio Zambrano did shoot Berg, it was accidental, Lindahl said in seeking a conviction of the lesser charge of manslaughter. He said Eladio Zambrano feared for his life because Hilliard had threatened to come back with friends.
That night, Zambrano saw a car coming toward his home. The car had its lights off, Lindahl said. “He thought it was going to be a drive-by,” he told the jury.
But Brickey said Eladio Zambrano hid by a tree and fence. He then opened fire without warning. “It was an ambush,” Brickey told the jury. “He was ready to kill.”