An ex-con who gunned down his estranged wife inside a Kohl’s store in Whittier as their 8-year-old son waited just outside three days before Christmas 2020 was convicted Monday of first-degree murder.
Jurors deliberated less than a day before finding Enrique Acosta, now 43, of Whittier, guilty of killing Yvonne Annette Acosta inside the store in a crime caught on surveillance video as their son stood outside the store’s doors on Dec. 22, 2020.
Acosta is facing a potential life prison term and is due back in a Norwalk courtroom for sentencing Sept. 15 by Superior Court Judge Debra Cole-Hall.
In his closing argument Friday, Deputy District Attorney Safaan Ahmed told the jury the defendant had four prior convictions for domestic violence involving his estranged wife, including a case in which he pleaded no contest to spousal battery just about a month before shooting the 46-year-old woman five times. Criminal protective orders had been issued in all of those cases, according to the prosecutor.
The prosecutor said the evidence proves the killing was first-degree murder, arguing that it was “not under a heat of passion” and that Acosta chose to bring a gun into a store while his estranged wife and young son were with him because he planned to do something with it that day.
“He was upset with Yvonne and he was going to use it (the gun) that day,” the deputy district attorney told the jury. “The defendant felt disrespected by Yvonne and felt that she did not care about him.
Ahmed said the defendant “caused his 8-year-old son to see his mother get shot five times by his father.”
Acosta had told the boy — who was not called as a witness during the trial — that his mom “deserves” it, according to the prosecutor.
Acosta, who allegedly has a conviction from 2000 for voluntary manslaughter, was taken into custody the next day in the Barstow area. He has remained behind bars since then.
Following his arrest, Acosta admitted to Whittier police that he had shot his estranged wife, with whom he shared the 8-year-old boy and an adult daughter, Ahmed said. The two had been separated for about a year, the prosecutor said.
Acosta’s attorney, Daniel Im, had argued that “justice for Enrique in this case is a manslaughter.”
“In this case, Yvonne was shot by Enrique. We’re not disputing that,” the defense lawyer told the jury during his closing argument.
“The evidence shows that manslaughter is the proper charge,” Im said. “He did not commit murder.”
The defense attorney said it could be argued that his client was a “bad husband” and acknowledged that Acosta had gone to county jail and prison — the latter of which he said his client had admitted while on the stand in his own defense.
“Yvonne provoked Enrique with her claims of unfaithfulness … Things were said that provoked an emotional response out of Enrique,” he said, noting that his client has expressed regret about the shooting.
In his rebuttal argument, the prosecutor countered that nothing corroborated any allegation of provocation or the defendant’s claim that the victim told him just before the shooting that she was having an affair, and urged the jury to hold Acosta “accountable” and to “give this family some peace.”
Officers were called about 5:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 2022, to Whittwood Town Center on Whittier Boulevard near Santa Gertrudes Avenue after getting reports that shots were fired inside Kohl’s, according to the Whittier Police Department.
Yvonne Acosta — whom the prosecutor said had met her estranged husband over a credit card transaction — was found on the floor inside the store and died at the scene.
Her estranged husband collided with the victim’s parked car as he fled in his Honda Civic following the shooting.
Susie Ortiz, the victim’s older sister, told City News Service after the verdict that “justice was served for my sister and her children.”