A 40-year-old man was sentenced Friday to 80 years to life in prison for gunning down an uncle at a family birthday party out of anger at how the victim treated his disabled daughter.
Daniel Lee Duvall was convicted Feb. 23 of first-degree murder and jurors found true a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. His punishment for murder was doubled because of a prior strike, and a gun enhancement added another 25 years.
Duvall shot 56-year-old Frank “Dino” Duvall to death on March 8, 2015, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson. The elder Duvall was trying to drive away from the Westminster home of the defendant’s grandmother and the victim’s mother, where the birthday party for Daniel Duvall’s girlfriend was being held.
The two men got into a verbal battle during the party, Mendelson said.
“The argument mainly involved how the uncle treated his 24-year-old daughter,” Mendelson told jurors.
The victim’s daughter was a “drug baby” who suffered from schizophrenia and was bipolar, Mendelson said to the court.
The party was winding down about 10 p.m. when the dispute occurred, according to Mendelson.
In addition to questioning how Frank Duvall treated his daughter, the defendant also criticized his uncle’s “lifestyle,” which he said included getting by through “Dumpster diving.”
The verbal dispute turned physical, Mendelson said, alleging a witness told police Daniel Duvall pulled a gun and threatened his uncle, Mendelson said.
In one account, the defendant’s gun jammed, Mendelson said.
Frank Duvall left the house and retreated to his van, which had a broken door so he had to climb in through a window, the prosecutor said.
The victim’s girlfriend and another friend, who was homeless and living out of the back of the vehicle, were in the van waiting for Frank Duvall, Mendelson said.
Frank Duvall reportedly said, “We’re out of here, Danny’s got a piece,” Mendelson said.
The girlfriend said Daniel Duvall swore at Frank Duvall and threatened to kill him before a single shot rang out, Mendelson said.
The girlfriend grabbed the wheel, punched the accelerator and got the van around the corner before she and the other friend ditched it, Mendelson said.
Another woman who was at the party saw the victim in the van about 15 minutes later and eventually a call was made to 911, Mendelson said.
The prosecutor acknowledged that the witnesses in the case did not want to testify in the trial.
“They’re reluctant and fearful,” Mendelson said.
Co-defendant Tina Arbogast, who was the defendant’s girlfriend at the party, has been charged as an accessory after the fact and is scheduled to go on trial separately.
Daniel Duvall’s attorney, Miles Jessup, said Westminster police made mistakes in the investigation such as allowing witnesses to speak to each other before questioning.
“There’s a massive amount of corruption of witness information,” Jessup said.
At some point in the investigation with the evidence pointing at his client, the police “rushed to fill in the blanks on how this happened,” Jessup said.
“There was a lot of animosity in that house” where the shooting took place, Jessup said.
Multiple people came and went and did drugs there, Jessup said.
“I’m not saying it was done in bad faith,” Jessup said of police focusing on his client as the killer. “But it was a rush to judgment.”
“Even if all that’s true,” Jessup said of the circumstantial evidence pointing to his client, “There’s verification that they got the wrong guy. There simply isn’t proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
–City News Service
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