Photo via City of Bell Gardens.
Photo via City of Bell Gardens.

A judge Friday sentenced the wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo to three months in county jail and five years of formal probation for shooting him in the chest, saying the couple’s relationship was abusive and bound to “end in tragedy.”

Over the objection of the victim’s brother, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy went along with a plea agreement negotiated between prosecutors and Lyvette Crespo that also calls for the 45-year-old mother of two to perform 500 hours of community service and complete a one-year anger management course.

Crespo — who has already served two days of the jail term — was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing.

She pleaded guilty Nov. 30 to voluntary manslaughter for the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband, Daniel. The judge said then that she wanted to review a probation report on the case before deciding whether to go along with the plea bargain.

“I don’t believe that Lyvette Crespo deserves to go to prison for this,” the judge said Friday, noting that she was initially surprised by the terms of the plea agreement but subsequently spent hours reviewing evidence, including grand jury transcripts from proceedings in which Crespo was indicted in April 2015.

The judge said she believed the defendant “was abused throughout the marriage,” and that both she and her husband “had their demons.”

Daniel Crespo was “absolutely cruel” to his wife and flaunted his extramarital affairs in her face, and “she was not Mother Teresa” either, the judge said.

“But for what happened on September 30th, it would still be going on. It was inevitable if you look at all of this evidence … This was a train going down the tracks and it was going to end in tragedy at some point … It was going to be you if it wasn’t him,” the judge said, speaking directly to the defendant.

Daniel Nicholas Crespo — who is now 22 — told the judge that his father was a “very complicated man” who was both loved and feared by him, his older sister and his mother. He described all three of them as victims of domestic violence.

He said he admired his father’s service to the city in which they lived, but said his dad was also a “liar,” “bully” and “cheater.”

“He had a lot of demons … Unfortunately, the demons won,” the couple’s son said.

He apologized to his mother, who wept in court as her son spoke across the courtroom, and told her that he wishes he had been stronger and could have done something to stop his father and that he has blamed himself for what happened.

Sheriff’s investigators said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their son intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claimed she was protecting her son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had punched the young man in the face.

William Crespo interrupted his nephew as he spoke in court, questioning why the defendant shot her husband instead of calling 911. He and his attorney walked out of court just as the judge began to read the terms of the sentence.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but has acknowledged that the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife.

His civil attorney read a statement on his behalf in court, in which he called his brother’s death “a planned killing” and said his sister-in-law had taken the law into her own hands and chosen “to execute him in cold blood.”

A civil lawsuit filed in October 2014 by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

One of Lyvette Crespo’s attorneys, Roger Lowenstein, said there was “no question that there was abuse in the relationship,” while another of her lawyers, Eber Bayona, described her as “the victim at the hands of Mr. Crespo for a number of years.”

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said the case was “thoroughly vetted by the District Attorney’s Office” before prosecutors concluded that “this was the appropriate disposition in this case.”

Outside court, the couple’s son said, “If there was a story, my father would be the hero and also the villain, like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” He described the work his father had done for their city as “amazing” while saying that he had a “really, really dark side, very, very hateful, spiteful.”

He described the events the day his father died as “the first time I ever stood up to my father.”

“I wasn’t going in for a fight. I was going in to stop him and his reaction was violence,” he said. “I tried to hold his hands so he didn’t punch me, but he did punch me in my right eye and I fell backwards on a flight … of stairs. It took me a moment to realize, you know, what just happened and my father just kept coming towards me, kept walking towards me, and I had to run. I was scared for my life. But even though I was terrified, I knew that I had to do something because he could not keep beating up on my mom … When she shot him and I saw it, I’ll never forget it, but I’m not angry at her. I don’t have any hatred. It’s not her fault.”

The couple’s daughter, Crystal, now 29, said, “It’s not like you can just call and say, `Look at what my father’s doing’ because he held a political position as well as being a probation officer. And also, you don’t want him to go to jail.”

— City News Service

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