A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld a man’s conviction for murdering his girlfriend’s mother, who had asked him and her daughter to move out of her house in Van Nuys.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Troy Monroe Hill’s contention that there were errors in his trial, in which he was found guilty of first-degree murder for the September 2014 killing of Trudy Douglass, 53.
Jurors also found true the special-circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait, along with an allegation that he used an ax handle as a deadly weapon.
Hill acknowledged to police that he waited for Douglass to go to sleep before he killed her, according to the appellate court panel’s 20-page ruling.
He is serving a life prison term without the possibility of parole.
His girlfriend, Shannon Marie LaFon, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in connection with her mother’s killing and was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.
Following her plea, LaFon penned a letter to Hill in which she professed her love for him and wrote that she was sorry she had gotten him in trouble and that she “should have told them the truth that I did everything,” according to the ruling, which noted that the trial court refused to let jurors hear about the letter.
“No reasonable probability exists that the jury would have credited the absent Lafon’s belated, inconsistent profession of Hill’s innocence over the confession of Hill himself,” the justices found, noting that she had refused to testify during Hill’s trial.
The appellate court panel noted that the evidence established that Douglass had “developmental issues and a childlike innocence, and seemed unable to protect herself.”
“And this was indeed a cold, intimate, vicious murder perpetrated in Douglass’s home by persons whom she trusted to fall asleep beside,” the justices noted.
Hill struck Douglass in the head with an ax handle, then used the handle to strangle her, according to Deputy District Attorney Angela Jordan.
Hill and LaFon then dragged the woman into a bathtub and left her there, the prosecutor said.
The woman had asked the two to move out of her Van Nuys home before she was killed, sometime between Sept. 4, 2014, and Sept. 8, 2014, according to evidence presented during Hill’s trial.
Hill and LaFon were arrested Sept. 12, 2014, by Los Angeles police, and have remained behind bars since then.
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