The prosecution and defense presented contrasting accounts to a jury Friday about whether or not disabled military veteran Clay Martin Burt Murray intentionally shot Rebecca Yap to death in his Lompoc home in 2014, an incident captured on surveillance camera.
Murray, now 67, and wheelchair-bound, is on trial in Judge Gustavo Lavayen's courtroom in Santa Maria for murder, with special circumstances, in the act of a robbery and attempted kidnapping of Yap, 37, on Oct. 13, 2014.
"Rebecca wanted to live. She pleaded for mercy, begged for her life. She said, 'Just let me go,'" Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley said.
"But no amount of pleading or begging was going to satisfy the defendant's thirst for revenge," Foley claimed. "He wanted to get Rebecca so bad that he planned the attack, and once he started the attack, he never stopped until he shot her to death in his own home with a .45-caliber handgun."
That day, Murray allegedly coaxed Yap to come and use drugs at this house.
Murray's neighbor called Lompoc Police after hearing Yap screaming for help, audible on the 911 call, Foley said. When police arrived, they, too, heard Yap screaming for help, but she was nowhere to be found.
Murray came out of the house, unarmed, and cooperated with the police before being detained, Foley continued. While some stayed with Murray outside, other officers found Yap in the side yard, lying in the dirt and bleeding to death.
"Rebecca, in her dying gasps, said the defendant shot her," said Foley, who added the gun was found at the front door.
Murray, who was outside with officers, began talking about what happened and an officer recorded the conversation on his phone, according to Foley.
Murray claimed that Yap attacked him with a club and that the two rolled around before Yap grabbed a knife and attempted to stab him, Foley recounted.
Then, Murray said he grabbed a gun and fired a warning shot to fend off Yap before Yap tried to grab the gun from him, according to the recorded statement.
"I [held] it to the left, because I didn't want to shoot her, you know. I was still trying to fire a warning shot," Murray said in his statement.
Foley said that could have been the end of the story: "We have a military vet, disabled, who says he's the victim of a horrible attack, and he fired [and] missed.
"Fortunately, something happened that prevented the huge miscarriage of justice," Foley said. "The defendant had his home surveillance system running, and this is what actually happened."
A video then was played to jurors that showed Murray and Yap in the bedroom. Yap wanted her phone, but Murray didn't give it back to her. Instead, he began hitting her with the end of a pool cue stick.
Yap is heard crying, "Don't beat me, please. I'm sorry."
Murray then grabbed handcuffs, ordered Yap to get on the bed and cuff herself, despite Yap's pleas. He continued hitting her while Yap tried to fend him off.
"You (expletive) up now!" Murray is heard yelling. "I will shoot your ass."
Yap begged Murray to let her go before two gunshots are heard.
Yap is then seen stumbling outside, yelling for help, a gunshot wound visible on her stomach.
A neighbor who heard the commotion asked Murray if a gunshot was heard, which Murray denied, before sirens are heard in the distance.
"What you just saw was hard, no doubt," said Foley, claiming evidence shows Murray planned the attack because he suspected Yap had twice stolen drugs from him.
"Whether you think this is premeditated murder, killing while lying in wait or killing during course of kidnapping attempt and robbery, any of those four roads lead to the same place, which is first-degree murder," Foley said.
In his opening statements, defense attorney Adrian Galvan painted Murray as a normal human being, "just like all of us," who wanted to lawfully protect himself when Yap allegedly attacked him.
"The video is hard to watch," Galvan agreed. "It's not his finest moment, clearly. But there's a backstory. This trial isn't a movie or TV drama; it's real life."
The background narrative, Galvan argued, will show that Murray was angry that Yap was stealing from him, and that he wasn't planning to murder, kidnap or rob her.
"He was mad. He was upset," Galvan explained. "He wanted to confront her. There's more to this story than the video."
Murray sustained several injuries to his shin, arm, forehead, cheek and legs, where Yap attacked him, claimed Galvan, adding Yap allegedly used a pool cue and scissors to attack him before discarding those items in a neighbor's yard.
"He didn't intend to rob her of her cellphone; he didn't intend to kidnap her. He wanted to confront Rebecca about the theft," Galvan said.
The defender also cautioned the jury not to decide Murray's fate based on the video.
"What you don't see on the video is Clay Murray defending himself," Galvan said. "The killing was lawful in nature, and I'll ask you to return a verdict of not guilty."
Testimony resumes Monday morning.