A state appeals court panel Friday upheld a former Gardena resident’s conviction for the 1995 killing of a man who was shot in the parking lot of a Redondo Beach grocery store.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that there was “compelling evidence” against Elliot Kimo Laanui, who was convicted of the Nov. 11, 1995, killing of Edward Emery.
The victim’s wife testified that she was not able to find her husband’s money clip after the shooting, with the prosecution suggesting that robbery was a likely explanation for the shooting.
Laanui was linked to the slaying through saliva collected from the window of a vehicle in the parking lot that was subsequently analyzed for DNA in 2011 at the behest of John Skipper, a retired police captain who was investigating unsolved crimes for the Redondo Beach Police Department, according to the appellate court panel’s opinion.
The cold-case investigator subsequently determined that Laanui matched the physical profile of the gunman, lived about four miles from the crime scene at the time and had been arrested driving a black Chevrolet Astro van a year before the murder, according to the ruling. A witness who heard gunshots told investigators she saw a dark Astro van leave the parking lot.
The appellate court panel noted that the defendant’s DNA was found at the scene of the crime, that the shooter escaped in a vehicle matching Laanui’s and that jailhouse recordings in 2012 clearly established “defendant’s desire to eliminate the person he believed had informed on him” in connection with the killing.
Laanui was convicted in October 2018 of murder and solicitation of murder, along with four other charges stemming from an unrelated incident in February 2017.
He was sentenced in April 2019 to more than 47 years to life in state prison.