A state appeals court panel upheld a man’s conviction for murdering his transgender partner on Los Angeles’ Skid Row in 2016.
A three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Daniel Molayem’s first-degree murder conviction and a gun enhancement stemming from the March 23, 2016, shooting death of 32-year-old Kourtney Yochum were “supported by substantial evidence.”
The panel noted in its ruling, released late Tuesday, that multiple witnesses testified that they saw Molayem shoot the transgender woman, and that surveillance footage from multiple cameras corroborated the testimony.
The appellate court justices noted that jurors were entitled to credit that testimony and video surveillance evidence over the defendant’s claim that Yochum was attacked by an unidentified man and that the gun accidentally went off when Molayem grabbed the weapon from the assailant’s hand to protect Yochum.
The couple had been in a relationship for more than 15 years, according to Deputy District Attorney Lisa Kassabian.
Molayem was arrested shortly after the shooting at Fifth and San Pedro streets. Witnesses said the victim was walking on a sidewalk just steps from her home at the Gateway Apartments, a supportive housing complex on Skid Row, when she was shot in the head.
She had formerly been known as Allen Walter Raymond Yochum Jr., authorities said.
One of the victim’s friends, Megan Lacy Wren, who referred to the victim as “Quartney,” said at Molayem’s sentencing in December 2017 that the victim had “this incredible smile that could light up a whole galaxy” and “this laugh that had the ability to pull you out of the darkest of moments.”
“… When the coroner called me to verify she had been killed, I already knew you were the one who did it as she would express her fear of you killing her,” Wren said, directly addressing the defendant. “The worst phone call I ever had to make was calling her mother to notify her that her child was killed by her longtime lover … I’ll never forget the despair in her screams.”
Molayem is serving a 50-year-to-life term in state prison.