The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld a man’s conviction and death sentence for murdering an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy during an attempted robbery in Long Beach more than 15 years ago.
The state’s highest court noted in its 75-page ruling that Frank Christopher Gonzalez “informed multiple agents that he had shot a female police officer” during an undercover operation following his arrest on unrelated charges.
“Gonzalez also disclosed numerous details about the crime, explaining (among other things) that he had left a bicycle at the scene, that he had thrown the murder weapon into the water and that he had not left any footprints because the crime occurred on pavement,” Justice Joshua P. Groban wrote on behalf of the panel.
The ruling noted that Gonzalez and co-defendant Justin Ashley Flint “were also heard discussing killing any witnesses to the murder, and Flint stated that the victim would not have been killed if she had given up her wallet.”
Gonzalez, now 41, was sentenced to death in May 2008, less than a month after being convicted of the first-degree murder and attempted robbery of Maria Rosa, who was gunned down about 6 a.m. on March 28, 2006.
Jurors found true the special-circumstance allegation of murder during an attempted robbery, along with an allegation that he used a gun to kill the 30-year-old woman, who was on her way to work at the sheriff’s Inmate Reception Center.
During the trial’s penalty phase, the prosecution “presented voluminous testimony from many witnesses describing numerous violent crimes that Gonzalez had perpetrated against them. Those crimes involved a string of armed robberies that occurred in 1994, two shootings that occurred in 2006 (one of which left the victim with five bullet wounds), an armed carjacking and an attack on a prison guard,” according to the ruling.
The panel noted that Gonzalez’s sister and then-girlfriend “provided additional, highly incriminating testimony” in which they explained they had pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after law enforcement intercepted conversations in which they were heard fabricating an alibi for Gonzalez.
One of Gonzalez’s trial attorneys, Franklin Peters Jr., had implored jurors to consider the type of environment in which his client was raised.
Jurors heard from the defendant’s father, who was incarcerated for murder when his son was just 3 years old and who remained in state prison at the time of his son’s trial.
Peters had urged Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani to consider that the defendant “did not have a male figure of any significance in his life at all,” his mother battled heroin addiction and Gonzalez was addicted to methamphetamine.
A separate jury convicted Flint of first-degree murder and attempted robbery in connection with the attack, and he was sentenced to 29 years to life in state prison. Flint, now 35, is eligible for a parole suitability hearing in May 2025, according to records from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.