Jury deliberations got underway Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of strangling his 25-year-old girlfriend during an argument in the victim’s Moreno Valley apartment, where their young daughter was sleeping.
Latravius Brian Gobert, 35, of Moreno Valley could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted of first-degree murder and child endangerment for the March 2018 killing of Mariah Malveaux.
The prosecution rested Monday, and the defense rested Tuesday, leading to closing arguments Wednesday morning at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Afterward, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Jackson sent the jury behind closed doors to begin weighing evidence from the nearly two-week trial, and the panel is slated to resume deliberations Thursday at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Last week, prosecutors replayed for jurors the interview sheriff’s detectives conducted with Gobert shortly after his arrest.
“I grabbed her and pushed her off,” he said during the interrogation at the sheriff’s Moreno Valley station. “I ain’t choke her. I grabbed her for five, 10, 15 seconds. I don’t know. She was still struggling and hitting on me. She was yelling (expletive). She said she loved me and hated me.”
The defendant broke down in tears multiple times during questioning, and when presented with photographs from the crime scene, he insisted, “I didn’t do that to her,” according to testimony.
Prosecutors allege that the convicted felon and Malveaux had a stormy relationship, mostly because of his extreme jealousy and short temper. The two were together for more than six years, and during that time, Gobert allegedly repeatedly abused her, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The victim worked as an exotic dancer and was the only breadwinner in the relationship, which included several break-ups and make-ups.
Witnesses told investigators that Gobert initially did not mind Malveaux’s line of work, but over time he became obsessive and controlling, culminating in episodes in which he allegedly struck and choked her, according to a trial brief filed by the DA’s office.
“Sometime between February 2018 and March 2018, the defendant and the victim got into an argument, and during the argument, the defendant smothered her with a pillow until she lost consciousness,” the brief alleged. “The victim woke up being slapped in the face by Gobert.”
Prosecutors allege that on the morning of March 17, 2018, Malveaux returned home after working a double shift and was scolded by Gobert, triggering a volatile exchange during which she ordered him to “pack up” and leave her apartment.
Instead, the defendant allegedly attacked the victim as she prepared to step into the shower, choking her until she passed out, according to prosecutors.
Gobert took their daughter — who had been in the adjacent room asleep — and drove to his mother’s house nearby, telling her what had transpired, at which point she went back to the apartment with him and found Malveaux unconscious, the brief alleged.
The victim was taken to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where she died less than a half-hour later.
According to court records, Gobert has prior convictions for threatening a peace officer with a deadly weapon, child endangerment, making terrorist threats, possession of cocaine for sale and criminal street gang activity.
He’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail.
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