A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a gang member’s conviction for fatally shooting a 19-year-old Orange County woman whose decomposing body was found in an ice chest stashed in a stolen car in an unincorporated area near Whittier.
Anthony Robert Moreno was convicted in July 2018 of first-degree murder for the Nov. 24, 2015, slaying of Dawn “Molly” McEveety of Huntington Beach.
The downtown Los Angeles jury also found true allegations that Moreno personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death and that the crime was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of and in association with a criminal street gang, along with a separate charge of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Moreno armed himself with a gun and shot McEveety in the detached garage of an Artesia home that was a known gang hangout, according to Deputy Los Angeles County District Attorney John Chang.
The young woman was not affiliated with a gang, according to the prosecutor.
Superior Court Judge Laura F. Priver — who sentenced Moreno to 50 years to life in state prison — called the victim an “innocent individual” who was “clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The appellate court panel noted in its 53-page ruling that Moreno told a confidential informant in jail that he had shot the woman twice and that she had worked as an informant, but that a Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective could not find any department documents that suggested she had worked with law enforcement.
McEveety’s remains were discovered by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies five days later inside a 1991 Toyota Celica hatchback in the 8600 block of Bradwell Avenue when they responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle.
The deputies immediately smelled the strong odor of decomposition, opened the vehicle and found the body entombed in an ice chest in the rear cargo area.
Moreno was arrested on an unrelated crime some time after the shooting and was sent to prison in that case, authorities said. He was subsequently returned to stand trial in connection with the killing.
The young woman’s mother, Maura McEveety-Sepa, told the defendant at his August 2018 sentencing, “Your actions took away an innocent girl’s life … All we have is our memories … Fortunately, you cannot take those away.”
She said she hoped Moreno would “never have the opportunity to take another life again.”