A state appeals court panel has upheld a man’s conviction for the 1978 rape and murder of a mother of three who worked the night shift at a gas station in Palmdale.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that jurors in Neal Antoine Matthews’ trial were improperly instructed.

Matthews — who is serving a life prison term without the possibility of parole — was convicted in September 2017 of first-degree murder for the December 1978 killing of 20-year-old Leslie Long.

The Lancaster jury, which also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery, murder during a kidnapping and murder during a rape, was the second to hear the case against Matthews. The first jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt.

Co-defendant Terry Moses, who was charged along with Matthews, pleaded guilty in January 2016 to Long’s killing, along with the Aug. 22, 1976, murders of Carlton Goodwin and Michael Fuqua and an attempted murder in December 1996.

Moses, who also admitted the special circumstance allegations in Long’s killing, was sentenced to three life prison terms without the possibility of parole.

Authorities said DNA evidence linked both men to the attack on Long.

Moses initially told investigators that his cohort was a since-deceased man, but subsequently acknowledged that it was Matthews after authorities indicated that they planned to exhume the dead man’s body to test for DNA, according to the appellate court panel’s ruling.

DNA tests confirmed that Matthews’ DNA was found in sperm samples collected from the victim’s body, the justices wrote.

Long was attacked while working the night shift on Dec. 3, 1978, at what was then a Chevron gas station on the corner of Palmdale Boulevard and Division Street. The robbers took money from a floor safe and kidnapped her at gunpoint.

Long’s body was found three days later at the base of a small hill just off the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway at Soledad Canyon Road in Acton. Investigators believe she was killed there. She had been sexually assaulted and shot five times in the back of the head.

While the appellate court panel upheld Matthews’ conviction, the justices ordered the case to be sent back to the trial court to determine the defendant’s ability to pay the $10,000 restitution fine that had been ordered at his November 2017 sentencing.

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