LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A state appeals court panel today upheld a former Fresno State University student's conviction for murdering a UCLA student whose body was discovered after a fire was set inside her Westwood apartment in an effort to cover up the crime.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that there were errors in the trial of Alberto Hinojosa Medina, who was found guilty in May 2018 of first-degree murder for the Sept. 21, 2015, stabbing of Andrea DelVesco, 21.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a burglary.
The jury also convicted Medina of one count each of arson of an inhabited structure and cruelty to an animal -- the latter involving DelVesco's Chihuahua mix dog, Shay Panda, who had to be euthanized, along with two counts of first-degree burglary with a person present involving break-ins at DelVesco's apartment in the 10900 block of Roebling Avenue and another apartment across the street.
The appellate court panel noted that the DNA profile from bloodstains on a knife and a trash bag found in Medina's bedroom closet in Fresno less than a week after the killing matched the young woman's DNA profile, and that a partial DNA profile from a sample taken from a pair of women's underwear inside another trash bag was consistent with DelVesco's DNA profile.
A black sock with a bloodstain recovered from the trunk of Medina's red Nissan Sentra, and the DNA profile from that bloodstain also matched the victim's DNA profile, according to the 50-page ruling.
The justices added that 13 photos of DelVesco's injuries, including three photos of burn injuries that the defense contended jurors should not have seen, were “relevant to show the motive for the arson'' and to corroborate the testimony of the responding firefighters and law enforcement about the condition in which her body was found.
Medina, who had come to the area to visit a friend who attended UCLA, subsequently drove back to Fresno, where he lived with two roommates, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told jurors during the trial.
Medina -- who was 22 at the time of the crime -- was arrested less than a week after the killing.
Los Angeles police were notified when one of Medina's roommates tried to register a speaker that had been taken along with a laptop computer during the first Westwood burglary, and police subsequently went to Fresno, where they recovered the items containing DelVesco's DNA at the residence, Avila said.
The prosecutor told jurors that DelVesco's “ life was taken away from her by this defendant ... He stabbed her multiple times to silence her so she could not call out for help.''
Medina's trial attorney, Debra Werbel, countered that her client had gone to the area for a “normal college weekend'' and “wasn't running around with burglar tools.''
“He did not enter this home planning on killing Andrea DelVesco,'' she said later.
Werbel said her client was drinking that night and had “lived for 21 years ... as a good person,'' telling the judge that “we are never going to know exactly why this happened.''
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office opted not to seek the death penalty against Medina, who was sentenced in September 2018 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham called Medina's crimes “truly monstrous.''
“He brutally murdered a beautiful, innocent person. He seriously wounded an entire community,'' the judge said at Medina's sentencing hearing. “He must never walk free again.''
As photo slides of the victim were shown on a large courtroom screen, DelVesco's mother, friends and fellow Pi Beta Phi sorority members spoke about the loss of a young woman who brought joy to their lives and urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence on the man convicted of killing the young woman, who was entering her fourth year at UCLA. The Austin, Texas, native was studying psychology and Spanish in hopes of becoming a bilingual psychologist.
Some said her murder marked the end of a time of innocence and made them worried about their own safety.
Co-defendant Eric Marquez -- who was 22 at the time and was attending UCLA when he was charged with murder and two counts of first-degree burglary with a person present -- subsequently pleaded guilty to one count each of first-degree burglary and being an accessory after the fact. He was sentenced in June 2018 to nearly three years in prison.
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