A felon who strangled his 25-year-old girlfriend during an argument in the victim’s Moreno Valley apartment, where their young daughter was sleeping, was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder.
A Riverside jury deliberated two days before finding Latravius Brian Gobert, 35, of Moreno Valley guilty of killing Mariah Malveaux in March 2018. Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but jurors opted to convict him of the lesser second-degree count.
Gobert, who remains in custody without bail, is scheduled to return to the Riverside Hall of Justice on Oct. 1, where a future sentencing date will be set.
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.
According to prosecutors, Gobert and the victim 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 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 struck and choked her, according to court papers.
“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,” a trial brief prepared by prosecutors said. “The victim woke up being slapped in the face by Gobert.”
Prosecutors said 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, he attacked her 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, court papers say.
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 felony 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.