BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Trayvale Chance Carlson was 13 years old when he knocked on the door of Yolanda Ann Espinoza's downtown Bakersfield apartment on June 13, 2003 and asked for a glass of water and the use of her phone.
Espinoza, 46, allowed Carlson and his friend Lonny Lorenzo Johnson into her home. They repaid her kindness by stabbing her and tying a plastic bag around her head.
Police said Espinoza died from asphyxiation. Carlson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to the California Youth Authority, where, because of changes in laws regarding juvenile offenders, he could only be held until he was 23 years old.
Released earlier this year, Carlson has racked up felony charges on separate cases for possession of a gun and being a member of a criminal street gang. He had a court hearing Thursday, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 5.
This was the scenario prosecutors were concerned about leading up to Carlson's release.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Pafford said Carlson hasn't changed his ways.
"The rehabilitation aspect of the California Youth Authority didn't have the desired effect on him," Pafford said.
The prosecutor said he still hopes Carlson will eventually better himself.
"Time will tell," he said.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said the DA's gang unit will prosecute Carlson. She said he was arrested in April and again in August, and was in possession of at least one gun on both occasions.
Bakersfield police reports at the time of Espinoza's 2003 killing said Carlson murdered the woman to "jump in," or join, a gang. The reports said Carlson told his girlfriend details of the killing the morning of June 14, just hours after police believe Espinoza died. She didn't believe him until hearing a boy in her church youth group talk about the murder of his aunt.
Espinoza's body was found in her apartment the evening of June 15 in the 800 block of 17th Street. She'd suffered stab wounds to her upper body and face, and a plastic bag covered her head.
A woman who regularly visited Espinoza told police she went by Espinoza's apartment 6:30 p.m. on June 13 but got no answer when she knocked.
On June 20, five days after Espinoza's body was found, Carlson's girlfriend went to police and told them what he'd said about killing a woman. The reports say both Carlson and the 30-year-old Johnson initially denied involvement in the killing, but upon further questioning each blamed the other for Espinoza's death.
Both denied knowing the victim, and prosecutors have said the crime seemed random. Relatives described Espinoza as a "sweet and kind" woman who kept to herself but regularly received visits from friends and family who checked on her because she suffered from epileptic seizures.
Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.