The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a Lancaster man convicted of strangling a woman who was sent to his home to repair a refrigerator.
Williams Franklin Hughes, now 34, was convicted in May 2019 of first-degree murder for the July 14, 2017, killing of Lyndi Fisher.
In February, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence against Hughes to support the jury’s finding of premeditation and deliberation.
The appellate court panel found that there was “overwhelming evidence” against Hughes in connection with the 36-year-old woman’s slaying at his home in the 43200 block of Doverwood Court.
“Evidence of motive further supported a finding of premeditation and deliberation, as the jury reasonably could have inferred that appellant was motivated to kill Fisher in retaliation for her perceived role in planting or retrieving a surveillance device in his refrigerator,” the panel’s 71-page ruling states.
The appellate court panel noted that the prosecution had suggested that Fisher may have rejected a sexual advance by Hughes, which might have motivated him to kill her.
Superior Court Judge Carlos Chung — who was called upon after jurors convicted Hughes to determine whether the defendant was sane or insane at the time of the killing — subsequently found that he was sane.
“Substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that appellant had failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had been incapable of understanding the wrongfulness of killing Fisher at the time he killed her,” the appellate court panel found.
Hughes first told detectives that an intruder pressed a gun against his eye and commanded him at gunpoint to take a walk, the justices noted. He said he complied by taking a 45-minute walk, and then spent two hours in the house before finding Fisher’s body in the garage and claimed not to know what happened to her, according to the ruling.
In his sixth interview with a forensic psychiatrist, he said he recalled strangling Fisher and had grown suspicious of her because she had looked under the refrigerator, put something in her pocket and that he believed she was there to use a surveillance device to collect evidence against him, according to the ruling.
Hughes — who was arrested the day after the killing — was sentenced to 55 years to life in state prison. But the appellate court panel ordered the case to be sent back to the trial court to allow the judge to determine whether to exercise his discretion to strike an enhancement that added five years to Hughes’ sentence.