The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to hear the case of a homeless man who was sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison for strangling a 78-year-old woman in broad daylight on the patio of her Alhambra condominium.
Milton Chavez, now 29, was convicted in June 2019 of first-degree murder, along with an allegation that he personally used a deadly and dangerous weapon — shoelaces — in the Feb. 15, 2017, killing of Moon-Yung Cheung.
In a March 8 ruling upholding his conviction, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found “overwhelming” circumstantial evidence of Chavez’s guilt.
“Video footage depicted Chavez and the victim, who appeared to be healthy, walking past one another near the victim’s condominium,” the panel found, noting that the victim’s daughter came outside five to 10 minutes late and saw him standing next to her mother, who lay unresponsive on the patio.
Chavez ran from the scene and was subsequently found hiding in a utility closet with the victim’s house keys in his pocket, according to the ruling.
DNA samples taken from the woman’s fingernails and the shoelaces used to strangle her matched the defendant’s DNA profile, and a DNA sample taken from his fingernails matched the victim’s DNA profile, according to the ruling.
The panel noted that Chavez was “hungry and homeless” and that his behavior was “consistent with someone casing the neighborhood to see whether there were residences that were unoccupied.”
Chavez is serving a 26-years-to-life state prison sentence.
At his July 2019 sentencing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus said the DNA evidence made it “absolutely clear” that the defendant killed the woman outside her home in the 1800 block of West Garvey Avenue.
The judge — who said he believed Chavez was “looking for some kind of opportunity to get money” — said the defendant had done “two terrible things” by strangling the woman and then preventing her daughter from seeking medical help for her mother by locking her out of the condominium after she came outside to check on the victim.
“This is a sad day and there is no way to make up for the loss of Moon Cheung,” the judge said then, calling the victim “particularly vulnerable” and the sentence “completely justified.”
In a statement read in court by Deputy District Attorney Elena Camaras Abramson, the victim’s daughter said “the loss of a parent happens to almost everyone, but the way we lost ours in such a traumatic circumstance was devastating.
“It’s all because of you, Milton Chavez. Our family is forever in pain and sorrow of the loss of a beloved. Her husband lost a wife. Her children lost a mother. Her grandchildren lost a grandmother … without a goodbye or a hug,” Connie Ng wrote. “You took away her life in such a vicious way with no regard of human life … You have been brought to justice, but you can’t give her life back. You are still breathing the air while you took that chance of breathing away from her.”