A Moreno Valley woman who was a teenager when she conspired with her mother to murder her stepfather to collect his life insurance proceeds was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years and four months in state prison.
Briuana Lashanae Hunter, now 23, pleaded guilty last year to three counts of attempted murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the 2009 slaying of Albert Thomas.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher imposed the sentence stipulated under the plea agreement between the prosecution and defense.
Final disposition of Hunter’s case was put off until after her mother was sentenced. Last week, a Riverside judge imposed capital punishment on 62- year-old Lorraine Alison Hunter, who was convicted in September of first-degree murder with special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and killing for financial gain.
The younger woman was the prosecution’s key witness, confessing her part in her stepfather’s death and detailing her mother’s actions.
She said she loved Thomas, a “calm, quiet” man who was the only father figure she ever knew. But in the end, the then-15-year-old girl chose to go along with her mother’s wishes and conspire to fatally shoot the short-haul trucker.
According to Briuana Hunter, her mother frequently argued with Thomas about not having enough money to spend. Deputy District Attorney Will Robinson described the elder Hunter as “money hungry” and not interested in holding down a job to contribute to the household.
She aided her mother in filling out several life insurance applications, naming her stepfather as the insured party and Lorraine Hunter as the principal beneficiary. Thomas’ name was forged on each application.
The elder Hunter took out a $750,000 policy, as well as a $10,000 policy, Robinson said. Thomas additionally had a $450,000 policy through the trucking company for which he worked, according to court papers.
In the two months before he was killed, Lorraine Hunter attempted to shoot her husband three times — twice on walks through their neighborhood in the area of Day Street and Eucalyptus Avenue, and another time outside a business where he held down a second job. Her daughter admitted being present on each occasion, knowing beforehand what her mother had planned.
On the evening of Nov. 3, 2009, Thomas and the defendants left their apartment and strolled to his big rig, where he wanted to grab a sweatshirt that he had bought for his stepdaughter, according to trial testimony.
The three of them climbed into his truck, and Thomas ducked into the rear sleeper compartment to find the shirt, while Hunter and her daughter sat in the front seat.
Lorraine Hunter pulled a small-caliber handgun she’d stolen from a member of her church and shot the victim point-blank in the back of the head twice, then shot him twice in the upper back as he knelt in the compartment. Sheriff’s deputies found him dead in a kneeling position.
Hunter and her daughter fled the scene with the help of a relative, and the case went cold for two years, until the same relative confessed everything she knew to investigators after being arrested herself for an unrelated offense.
–City News Service