Mendoza Named Bell Gardens Mayor

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Bell Gardens Mayor Jose J. Mendoza and Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores were sworn in last week during a special ceremony at city hall.

This will be the first time Mendoza will serve as mayor since being elected in November 2013.

The lifelong Bell Gardens resident says he wants to focus on continuing to make the city a great place to live. He currently teaches dance at Bell Gardens Intermediate.

Bell Gardens Mayor Jose J. Mendoza and Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores during the city’s swearing-in ceremony Jan. 18. (City of Bell Gardens)

Bell Gardens Mayor Jose J. Mendoza and Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores during the city’s swearing-in ceremony Jan. 18. (City of Bell Gardens)

“We’ve come a long way and I look forward to helping us continue to move forward and be a good place for families and businesses,” he said in statement announcing his new role.

Flores was first elected to the Bell Gardens Council in 2015 and has previously served as mayor in 2009 and 2010. She serves as an administrator at Bell Gardens Intermediate.

 

Judge OK’s Ex-Mayor’s Wife’s Plea Deal in Husband’s Killing

January 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A judge today sentenced the wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo to three months in county jail and five years of formal probation for shooting him in the chest, saying the couple’s relationship was abusive and bound to “end in tragedy.”

Over the objection of the victim’s brother, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy went along with a plea agreement negotiated between prosecutors and Lyvette Crespo that also calls for the 45-year-old mother of two to perform 500 hours of community service and complete a one-year anger management course.

Crespo — who has already served two days of the jail term — was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing.

She pleaded guilty Nov. 30 to voluntary manslaughter for the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband, Daniel. The judge said then that she wanted to review a probation report on the case before deciding whether to go along with the plea bargain.

“I don’t believe that Lyvette Crespo deserves to go to prison for this,” the judge said Friday, noting that she was initially surprised by the terms of the plea agreement but subsequently spent hours reviewing evidence, including grand jury transcripts from proceedings in which Crespo was indicted
in April 2015.

The judge said she believed  the defendant “was abused throughout the marriage,” and that both she and her husband “had their demons.”

Daniel Crespo was “absolutely cruel” to his wife and flaunted his extramarital affairs in her face, and “she was not Mother Teresa” either, the judge said.

Former Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, right, with his son, pictured center, and his wife Lyvette Crespo, left, during his swearing in ceremony in 2013. (EGP News photo archive)

Former Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, right, with his son, pictured center, and his wife Lyvette Crespo, left, during his swearing in ceremony in 2013. (EGP News photo archive)

“But for what happened on September 30th, it would still be going on. It was inevitable if you look at all of this evidence … This was a train going down the tracks and it was going to end in tragedy at some point … It was going to be you if it wasn’t him,” the judge said, speaking directly to
the defendant.

Daniel Nicholas Crespo — who is now 22 — told the judge that his father was a “very complicated man” who was both loved and feared by him, his older sister and his mother. He described all three of them as victims of domestic violence.

He said he admired his father’s service to the city in which they lived, but said his dad was also a “liar,” “bully” and “cheater.”

“He had a lot of demons … Unfortunately, the demons won,” the couple’s son said.

He apologized to his mother, who wept in court as her son spoke across the courtroom, and told her that he wishes he had been stronger and could have done something to stop his father and that he has blamed himself for what happened.

Sheriff’s investigators said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their son intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claimed she was protecting her son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had punched the young man in the face.

William Crespo interrupted his nephew as he spoke in court, questioning why the defendant shot her husband instead of calling 911. He and his attorney walked out of court just as the judge began to read the terms of the sentence.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but has acknowledged that the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife.

His civil attorney read a statement on his behalf in court, in which he called his brother’s death “a planned killing” and said his sister-in-law had taken the law into her own hands and chosen “to execute him in cold blood.”

A civil lawsuit filed in October 2014 by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

One of Lyvette Crespo’s attorneys, Roger Lowenstein, said there was “no question that there was abuse in the relationship,” while another of her lawyers, Eber Bayona, described her as “the victim at the hands of Mr. Crespo for a number of years.”

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said the case was “thoroughly vetted by the District Attorney’s Office” before prosecutors concluded that “this was the appropriate disposition in this case.”

Outside court, the couple’s son said, “If there was a story, my father would be the hero and also the villain, like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” He described the work his father had done for their city as “amazing” while saying that he had a “really, really dark side, very, very hateful, spiteful.”

He described the events the day his father died as “the first time I ever stood up to my father.”

“I wasn’t going in for a fight. I was going in to stop him and his reaction was violence,” he said. “I tried to hold his hands so he didn’t punch me, but he did punch me in my right eye and I fell backwards on a flight … of stairs. It took me a moment to realize, you know, what just happened and my father just kept coming towards me, kept walking towards me, and I had to run. I was scared for my life. But even though I was terrified, I knew that I had to do something because he could not keep beating up on my mom … When she shot him and I saw it, I’ll never forget it, but I’m not angry at her. I don’t have any hatred. It’s not her fault.”

The couple’s daughter, Crystal, now 29, said, “It’s not like you can just call and say, `Look at what my father’s doing’ because he held a political position as well as being a probation officer. And also, you don’t want him to go to jail.”

 

Updated 3:24 p.m.

Wife of Slain Bell Gardens Mayors Pleads Guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter

November 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter for shooting him three times in their home just over two years ago.

Lyvette Crespo, 45, is facing three months in county jail, 500 hours of community service and five years formal probation under a disposition reached with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, according to Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.

Crespo is set to be formally sentenced Jan. 5 in connection with the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband, Daniel Crespo Sr.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy noted that she will review a probation report once it is completed to determine if she will go along with the disposition. If not, Crespo would have the option of withdrawing her plea, the judge said.

Crespo with wife son Searing In

Former Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, right, with his son, pictured center, and his wife Lyvette Crespo, left, during his swearing in ceremony in 2013. (EGP News photo archive)

One of the woman’s attorneys told the judge that she wanted to plead no contest, but the prosecutor insisted on a guilty plea and Crespo eventually acquiesced after speaking with her lawyers.

“She should plead guilty to what she did,” Silverman said outside court. “The factual basis is that she shot him three times in the chest.”

Outside court, Crespo’s brother, William, objected to the plea agreement, which he said he heard about for the first time during the hearing.

“I’m hurt. I’m confused, all kinds of emotions are going on right now,” he told reporters. “I’m so shocked. I still can’t believe that she’s gonna get away with this … She should pay for what she did. She killed my brother.”

He said he believes his sister-in-law’s sentence “should be a long time.”

Crespo’s attorneys have claimed that she shot and killed her husband in self-defense after enduring years of abuse at his hands.

At a hearing last month, defense lawyer Eber Bayona said he thought the two sides had reached a deal, but told the judge that the offer apparently was not approved by supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office.

Another of her attorneys, Roger Lowenstein, told reporters last month that two deals had been on the table. The first, involving a plea of involuntary manslaughter, was withdrawn by prosecutors who then sought a voluntary manslaughter plea. Both deals were for probation with no jail time,
he said.

“Lyvette Crespo is innocent. This is a self-defense case,” Lowenstein said, alleging her husband “tortured [her] for 28 years.”

He said then that it made sense for Crespo to take the deal and “start healing” given the risk of a possible 21-year sentence and a mandatory 10-year term for using a firearm if she had gone to trial and been convicted.

Crespo was indicted in April 2015 on the voluntary manslaughter charge. Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their then-19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claims she was protecting the couple’s son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had allegedly punched the young man in the face.

Bayona contends that Daniel Crespo “was a man who abused not only his wife but other women” and mentally and physically abused his children.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but said the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife.

A civil lawsuit filed Oct. 20, 2014, by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Bell Gardens Mayor to Simultaneously Serve on Water Board

November 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Bell Gardens Mayor Pedro Aceituno will soon be sitting behind two different daises, simultaneously serving on the city council and the Central Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors.

Aceituno received 40 percent of the votes during the Nov. 8 election, beating out Pico Rivera Councilman Bob Archuleta.

Aceituno will represent the Water District’s Division 1, which covers the cities of Bell Gardens, Downey, Montebello, Pico Rivera, West Whittier-Los Nietos, and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

In an interview before the election, Archuleta told EGP he planned to relinquish his seat on the council if elected. Aceituno did not respond to EGP’s inquiries at the time.

However, the mayor now says he will continue serving on the Bell Gardens City Council and told EGP he has no plans to step down, adding he sees no conflict in holding the two public offices at the same time.

Under state law, an elected official may not hold two different public offices simultaneously if the offices have “overlapping and conflicting public duties.” The Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris previously took issue with a case in the city of Corona, where a councilman also served as the director of the Water Replenishment District.

Bell Gardens City Manager Phil Wagner says that case does not apply to Aceituno, likening it to comparing “apples and oranges.”

Bell Gardens Mayor Pedro Aceituno, center, takes the oath of office after his re-election to the city council earlier this year. (EGP Photo Archive)

Bell Gardens Mayor Pedro Aceituno, center, takes the oath of office after his re-election to the city council earlier this year. (EGP Photo Archive)

“There is no legal reason for Aceituno to step down from office,” Wagner told EGP. “The D.A. hasn’t raised issue here.”

Wagner tells EGP that as city manager he is the one charged with making any decisions related to water issues or purchases in the city. He noted that Aceituno does not deal with the day-to-day activities involving the water wholesaler.

Aceituno has always taken precautions to avoid conflicts, often abstaining from votes or even leaving the room during a vote that could be perceived as a conflict of interest for him, Wagner said.

“If there are any potential conflicts I will continue to do the same,” echoed Aceituno.

The Bell Gardens mayor – a title that revolves between council members – told EGP that he has not been advised by either the Central Basin or city attorney that holding both elected offices poses a conflict of interest. He added that when he was elected to the water district board, voters were well aware of his position.

“When I ran it was no hidden secret that I was the councilman from the city of Bell Gardens, it was on my campaign literature,” he said. Yet “folks still chose to elect me.”

Aceituno says he plans to focus on helping the scandal-plagued board make changes.

In 2007, Aceituno was recognized by the Central Basin for his work making Bell Gardens the first city in the region to embrace a citywide conservation program through use of a conservation grant.

“I have experience dealing with issues of water,” said Aceituno, who previously represented the city on the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.

Wagner says having good quality, fiscally responsible representatives at the Central Basin will benefit all cities and help water rates stay down.

“He’s done well [in Bell Gardens],” says Wagner. “I look forward to seeing better management and organization” at Central Basin.

Aceituno was elected to the Bell Gardens City Council in 1999 and is the city’s longest-sitting elected official.

He will assume his position on the Central Basin board next month.

 

No Plea Deal In Crespo Murder Case

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Efforts to reach a plea deal with no jail time have fallen apart for the wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo Sr., who claims she shot and killed him in self-defense after enduring years of abuse at his hands, her attorneys said Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked whether a plea deal had been struck when the parties were discussing potential trial dates for Lyvette Crespo, 45.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said, “We tried to, your honor.”

Defense attorney Eber Bayona replied, “We thought we had a deal,” but told Kennedy the offer apparently wasn’t approved by supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office.

“I understand the family had a strong voice in the decision-making,” Bayona said.

He said he believed the parties are now at an impasse.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30, with a tentative trial date of Jan. 5.

Outside the courtroom, co-defense counsel Roger Lowenstein said two deals had been on the table.

The first, involving a plea of involuntary manslaughter, was withdrawn by prosecutors who then sought a voluntary manslaughter plea. Both deals were for probation with no jail time, he said.

“Lyvette Crespo is innocent. This is a self-defense case,” Lowenstein said, alleging her husband “tortured (her) for 28 years.”

However, given the risk of wrongful conviction, a possible 21-year sentence and a mandatory 10-year term for using a firearm, Lowenstein said it made sense for his client to take the deal and “start healing.”

He called the D.A.’s change of heart “political” and believes the decision to renege the agreement was influenced by the media attention Daniel Crespo’s brother William was stirring.

Last week, when news of a possible plea deal first broke, William Crespo told EGP that he and his family were surprised to hear that Lyvette might not have to do any time any jail.

“I’ve never heard of anybody killing somebody and walking away free,” he said in disbelief and anger.

Atty. James Devitt is representing Daniel Crespo’s mother in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Lyvette soon after the late mayor’s death. According to Devitt, a person convicted of driving under the influence on average serves more time in jail than Lyvette has to date. His clients want Lyvette to serve the maximum sentence possible in state prison, he told EGP,

Devitt believes the D.A. initially considered the plea because prosecutors were concerned about losing a high profile case and taking on a trial that would likely portray Lyvette as a battered spouse.

With no deal on the table, Lowenstein on Monday accused the District Attorney’s Office of “unprofessionalism” and “playing with people’s lives” in withdrawing the deal.

He also dismissed the idea that higher-ups were responsible.

“If Beth Silverman wanted this deal, she would go in and fight for it,” Lowenstein said.

Silverman could not immediately be reached for comment and a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said they do not comment on plea negotiations conducted outside of open court.

Crespo was indicted by a grand jury on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their then-19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claims she was protecting the couple’s son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had allegedly punched the young man in the face.

Bayona contends that Daniel Crespo “was a man who abused not only his wife but other women” and mentally and physically abused his children.

Valerie Alvarez, who runs the Facebook domestic violence support group “LYVETTE CRESPO, WIFE, MOTHER AND NOT GUILTY” told EGP she has hope any potential juror will see that Lyvette’s actions were justified following years of domestic abuse.

“People are starting to realize you can’t just get up and leave,” she said.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but said the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife. He claims Lyvette threatened her husband, was planning on leaving him but “wanted him dead.”

The multi-million dollar civil lawsuit filed Oct. 20, 2014, by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.” The suit is has been stalled until the criminal case comes to an end.

“I miss him everyday.” said William Crespo, while starring at a photograph of his late brother. “Whateverw happens we just need to let him rest in peace.”

EGP Staff Writer Nancy Martinez contributed to this report.

 

No Plea Deal For Wife of Slain Bell Gardens Mayor

October 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Efforts to reach a plea deal with no jail time have fallen apart for the wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo Sr., who claims she shot and killed him in self-defense after enduring years of abuse at his hands, her attorneys said Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked whether a plea deal had been struck when the parties were discussing potential trial dates for Lyvette Crespo, 45.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said, “We tried to, your honor.”

Defense attorney Eber Bayona replied, “We thought we had a deal,” but told Kennedy the offer apparently wasn’t approved by supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office.

“I understand the family had a strong voice in the decision-making,” Bayona said.

He said he believed the parties are now at an impasse.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30, with a tentative trial date of Jan. 5.

Outside the courtroom, co-defense counsel Roger Lowenstein said two deals had been on the table.

The first, involving a plea of involuntary manslaughter, was withdrawn by prosecutors who then sought a voluntary manslaughter plea. Both deals were for probation with no jail time, he said.

“Lyvette Crespo is innocent. This is a self-defense case,” Lowenstein said, alleging her husband “tortured (her) for 28 years.”

However, given the risk of wrongful conviction, a possible 21-year sentence and a mandatory 10-year term for using a firearm, Lowenstein said it made sense for his client to take the deal and “start healing.”

Crespo with wife son Searing In

(EGP photo archive)

Daniel Crespo’s brother William was informed of the potential plea deal and spoke out against it to ABC7.

“That’s wrong. You get more for killing a dog,” William Crespo told a Channel 7 reporter last week.

An attorney representing the mayor’s brother and mother said Lyvette Crespo had other options.

“Lyvette had time to walk into the bedroom, get the 9 mm gun, load it, take the safety off and fire three shots down a stairwell and into my client’s chest,” James Devitt told the station.

Lowenstein accused the District Attorney’s Office of “unprofessionalism” and “playing with people’s lives” in withdrawing the deal.

He also dismissed the idea that higher-ups were responsible.

“If Beth Silverman wanted this deal, she would go in and fight for it,” Lowenstein said.

Silverman could not immediately be reached for comment and a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said they do not comment on plea negotiations conducted outside of open court.

Crespo was indicted by a grand jury on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their then-19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claims she was protecting the couple’s son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had allegedly punched the young man in the face.

Bayona contends that Daniel Crespo “was a man who abused not only his wife but other women” and mentally and physically abused his children.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but said the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife.

A civil lawsuit filed Oct. 20, 2014, by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Plea Deal Rumored for Wife of Slain Bell Gardens Mayor

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Two years after the fatal shooting of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, rumors are swirling that a court hearing Monday may lead to a plea deal for his wife Lyvette, who faces voluntary manslaughter charges in his death.

Wary that a sympathetic jury would be persuaded by the defense’s depiction of Lyvette as a longtime victim of physical abuse at the hands of her husband, prosecutors are considering a plea, ABC7 first reported Wednesday.

James Devitt is the attorney in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Lyvette by members the late mayor’s family. He warned members of the Facebook group “Justice for MAYOR Daniel Crespo,” that the plea deal would be presented before Judge Kathleen Kennedy Monday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. He added that the plea would mean no jail time for Lyvette.

“They want to give [her] probation,” he wrote. “We need to object to Judge Kennedy.”

“pls come to court Oct. 17,” he urged.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators, Lyvette and her husband were arguing Sept. 30, 2014 when their 19-year old son Daniel Crespo Jr. intervened, leading to a struggle between the two men. Crespo Sr. allegedly punched his son and that’s when Lyvette allegedly grabbed a handgun and shot her husband three times in the chest.

Crespo with wife son Searing In

(EGP photo archive)

Lyvette pleaded not guilty last year to the voluntary manslaughter charge after being indicted by a grand jury. She was released from jail after posting $150,000 bail.

Her attorney claims the shooting was justified because his client was the victim of years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and was defending herself and her son when she shot him.

A 1,500 plus page grand jury testimony released last year revealed sordid details of the case including allegations of abuse and serial infidelity by Crespo. Both of Crespo’s children – Crystal Crespo and Daniel Crespo Jr. – testified their father had verbally and physically abused their mother over the years,

According to the transcript, Crespo had multiple affairs during his marriage, including a “faux wedding” ceremony in Las Vegas with one mistress. On the day of the crime, the couple argued over the mayor’s alleged affairs, according to the testimony.

Prosecutors told grand jurors that Lyvette repeatedly provoked her husband and witnesses claim she repeatedly threatened her husband.

A $50 million wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Lyvette on behalf of Crespo’s mother shortly after the shooting. Family members believe Lyvette picked a fight with her husband knowing that her son would intervene, allowing her to kill Crespo “with malice and in cold blood.”

If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison.

Updated

4:15 p.m: Adds James Devitt is attorney in a lawsuit filed by members of Crespo family.

Years Before Slain Mayor’s Death, Bloggers Were Telling Tales

September 24, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

In June 2007, an anonymous blogger started a thread on the Bell Gardens Topix board titled “Daniel Crespo.” What began as an opportunity for the author to vent about his mistrust of the city official, quickly turned into allegations of adultery and abuse, charges that years later would grip local and national headlines in the wake of the mayor’s untimely and violent death.

 

Shot Heard Around The World

It’s been nearly a year since the small working class city of Bell Gardens was invaded by swarms of news trucks and reporters covering the shooting death of the city’s mayor at the hands of the woman he called his “high school sweetheart.”

News of the shocking shooting death of a beloved city official would quickly give way to a story alleging scandal, infidelity and spousal abuse by Mayor Daniel Crespo.

Initial reports out of the city on the afternoon of Sept. 30, 2014, said the mayor was shot at his home. But a shocking detail soon emerged — the person who pulled the trigger was none other than the mayor’s wife, Lyvette Crespo.

According to police, Lyvette admitted to shooting her husband in self-defense: The couple’s teen-aged son Daniel told police his mother was defending him against his father who had hurt him. Later, it was revealed Lyvette alleged she had suffered years of abuse at the hands of Crespo.

For some, the allegations seemed to come out of left field. The image of Crespo as a wife beater did not match their view of him as a man dedicated to helping the city’s working class, mostly immigrant residents. They saw him as a noble man dedicated to ensuring Bell Gardens thrived and did not end up like other southeast cities riddled with corruption.

Others, however, were not surprised that the man who seemed dedicated to keeping city hall transparent, may have actually kept his biggest secrets at home.

 

Foreshadow of Tales to Come

Back in 2007, bloggers angrily blamed Crespo for the city’s volatile political climate, which at the time included threats of recalls and voter fraud. Some accused then Councilman Crespo of personal indiscretions.

“Daniel Crespo is a womanizer,” wrote Concerned Resident. “I know there was talk about him having an affair… I hear he is very friendly with his commissioners.”

Another blogger brought up a sexual harassment lawsuit that accused Crespo of harassing a city employee. The city was later forced to settle the suit brought by a former employee for $70,000.

“He always denies it, but the truth is it happened,” wrote Refreshed Memory. 

The blogger acknowledged Crespo’s longstanding claim that the whole incident was a misunderstanding and political set up.

“I feel sorry for his wife,” another blogger posted. 

Within months, the thread had a dozen posts. Many of the comments attacked Crespo and other political figures in the city.

That same year, a blogger referenced an incident where Crespo was said to have exhibited a gun during a homeowners association meeting at the complex where he lived.

“This is yet more proof on how he abuses his power to threaten people and feels superior,” wrote Case 990831. 

His fans came to his support on the blog, calling him a “good church-going” man.

“You guys talk nonsense about him and his family,” wrote I support Crespo. “I heard he is working undercover to clean up city hall.”

Years later, the blog comments seemed to foreshadow what was to come — accusations mirrored in testimony in the Grand Jury indictment of Lynette on a charge of voluntary manslaughter for the death of her husband.

She pleaded not guilty and is currently out on bail.

(Screenshots of Topix website)

(Screenshots of Topix website)

In 2007, one blogger wrote he had witnessed Crespo and his wife arguing in front of their children outside St. Gertrude’s Church. According to media reports, Crespo’s daughter Crystal told the Grand Jury her father once punched her mother on their way home from church.

Another blogger also claimed to have witnessed evidence of Crespo’s abuse of his wife: “I have seen marks on her arms,” wrote Say No to Abuse. “He abuses his power and his wife too.” 

Lyvette’s lawyer has released photos of injuries his client years earlier allegedly sustained at the hands of her husband. The images show Lyvette with a black eye and cuts around her lips.

Then, for nearly three years, the blog went cold, no comments or posts or accusations until 2010 when BGFeatherwood wrote: “Daniel Crespo is human and yet is very compassionate and caring not greedy and corrupt like the rest of the city council …Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about.” 

(Screenshots of Topix website)

(Screenshots of Topix website)

Four years later, bloggers started to post again: Crespo had been killed.

 “RIP Daniel Crespo … guess a lot of what [was] said on here might have been true … one thing for sure though … you died by your own gun,” wrote Life Long BG Resident on Sept. 30, the day of the shooting.

Crespo, a parole officer licensed to carry a handgun, was shot with his own weapon.

 “You did all you could to help Bell Gardens and your family,” wrote Legal Resident the next day. “Good bless your wife and kids as they try to live without you. It will be hard for all.”

“He got what he deserved,” wrote a less sympathetic blogger.

 

Looking Ahead

In the weeks following the shooting, media outlets across the country dissected the mayor’s life, interviewing family, friends, neighbors, acquaintance and fellow elected officials.

Many people said “they never knew” about the “darker side” of the mayor’s private life. City officials and staff noted his wife and children rarely accompanied him to city events. During funeral services, many spoke of mended relationships and his happiness to after years of being passed over, finally being voted in as mayor by his council colleagues: a title he will now hold in perpetuity.

Things have quieted down in Bell Gardens in the ensuing months. The city has even cancelled the city council election that was supposed to take place in November since no one but the two sitting longtime councilmembers in those seats filed to run.

But that could change early next year as national attention is again focused on the small southeast city during Lyvette’s murder trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 4. A separate wrongful death civil lawsuit filed against Lyvette by Crespo’s mother, is also awaiting trial.

A crime show is filming an expose on the sordid story detailed in 1,500 plus pages of Grand Jury testimony, which includes statements from responding officers, Crespo’s two children, the mayor’s alleged girlfriends and others.

On the day of the killing, the couple got into a heated argument over the mayor’s alleged affairs, exchanging threatening and profanity laced text messages in the hours before the fatal confrontation at the couple’s home.

If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison.

“[Crespo] was a womanizer who abused his power,” reads the last post on the blog.

“He paid the ultimate price.”

 

Slain Mayor’s Mother Wins Access to Police Reports

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A judge has reversed himself and ruled that an attorney for the mother of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo — whose wife is accused of shooting him — can have access to the police report he says he needs to get his client’s civil case ready for trial.

Otilia Santos’ attorney, James Devitt, filed court papers in Los Angeles Superior Court asking a judge to order the Bell Gardens Police Department to turn over the police report and all documents related to the death of her son, Daniel Crespo.

On April 17, Judge Michael Raphael denied Devitt’s motion, noting that the police investigation was still in progress. But Raphael said June 18 that in light of a grand jury indictment of Lyvette Crespo for voluntary manslaughter and her subsequent plea of not guilty, no legal grounds remain for withholding the information.

“This is precisely the sort of new fact or circumstance that warrants reconsideration,” Raphael wrote in his two-page ruling.

Raphael said he is not requiring the BGPD to turn over photos of the decedent. He also said Devitt cannot disseminate the report to the public unless he also obtains a copy from another source.

In court papers filed before Lyvette Crespo’s indictment, lawyers for the BGPD said they would only turn over the records if ordered by a judge to do so. The department handed over the investigation into Crespo’s death to the Sheriff’s Department shortly after the mayor was killed, according to the BGPD attorneys’ court papers.

Devitt said after the hearing that the Bell Gardens report is five pages long. He said he still has not seen the Sheriff’s Department report and may have to make a similar motion to obtain it.

Santos filed suit last Oct. 20, exactly a month after her 45-year-old son was shot. Sheriff’s investigators said Daniel Crespo and his wife were arguing when their 19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son. Lyvette Crespo allegedly grabbed a gun and shot her husband, who had punched their son in the face.

Santos alleges her son was shot in cold blood. The lawsuit alleges his wife picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Eber Bayona, the attorney for 43-year-old Lyvette Crespo, contends his client was a longtime victim of domestic violence. Transcripts from the grand jury indictment contend Daniel Crespo had multiple affairs and physically abused his family members for years.

Bayona opposed the release of the Bell Gardens report pending the outcome of his motion to stay the civil case until the criminal proceedings against his client are over. He said his client would not be able to give a deposition in the lawsuit because what she said could be used against her in the criminal case.

Bayona also said in court that Devitt offered to drop the lawsuit if he could obtain the rights from Lyvette Crespo to make a movie about her life.

However, Devitt said he told Bayona that there may be some value in such a film but that he did not offer to drop the suit in exchange for any movie rights.

Grand Jury Testimony Reveal Sordid Details In Crespo Case

May 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Details emerging from the grand jury probe into the shooting death of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo tell a disturbing tale of dysfunction, abuse, and alleged serial infidelity in the years leading to the killing last fall.

The grand jury last month indicted the mayor’s wife, Lyvette Crespo, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter with a handgun for the shooting, despite her attorney’s claim that the shooting was justifiable because his client was the victim of years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and was defending herself and her son when she shot him.

Lyvette Crespo, 43, pleaded not guilty and was released from jail after posting $150,000 bail.

The 1,500 plus pages of grand jury testimony released to the public Monday includes statements from responding officers, the Crespo’s two children – Crystal Crespo and Daniel Crespo Jr. – the mayor’s alleged girlfriend and others, media outlets reported.

According to the transcript, Lyvette knew about her husband’s alleged girlfriends, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Crespo had multiple affairs during his marriage and even took part in a “faux wedding” ceremony in Las Vegas to one mistress in 2013.

That alleged girlfriend testified that the former mayor told her his wife had threatened to shoot and poison him, according to the Times.

The couple had a “very rocky … relationship,” a prosecutor told the grand jury panel.

EGP previously reported that the mayor’s brother William Crespo accused Lyvette of threatening several times before to kill her husband, citing text messages included in the grand jury testimony:

“I’ll find out who … u got flowers for. Has to be a bell gardens whore,” read one of the messages Lyvette is said to have sent her husband a few months before the shooting.

“It better [be the] last time U threaten to shoot me in [the] head!!!” came the reply from Daniel Crespo’s phone.

“People don’t like to be played with or be made a fool,” she responded. “I’ve put up with a lot of …. Don’t play with me. Don’t play with me.”

On the day of the crime, the couple got into a heated argument over the mayor’s alleged affairs, exchanging threatening and profanity laced text messages in the hours before the fatal confrontation.

The fight continued in person at the couple’s home, according to the transcripts.

The couple’s son said he received a text message from his mother telling him “Come home, it’s your father,” Bell Gardens Police Officer Victor Ruiz testified, according to NBC4.

Daniel Jr. heard the arguing and loud thumps coming from his father’s office and tried to intervene, but when he knocked on the door his father told him “Don’t f— with me” and punched him in the face, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs, Ruiz said Daniel Jr. told him following the shooting. Then, trying to protect his mother, Daniel Jr. coaxed his father to follow him down the rest of the stairs: That’s when he looked up and saw his mother appear at the top of the stairs and shoot his father three times. Ruiz told grand jurors.

Daniel Jr. sustained a cut to his face during the altercation.

Both children testified their father had verbally and physically abused their mother over the years, with Crystal saying the abuse had become more physical in the last two years, reported NBC4 . Daniel Jr. said he told a school counselor about the abuse in 2011, reported the Times.

Crystal testified that she also was on the receiving end of some of that abuse. She claimed her father strangled her when she was15.

Prosecutors told grand jurors that Daniel Crespo mistreated his wife, “going out at night … treats her  like she’s his housekeeper.” Lyvette may have had every reason to be extremely angry with him, but according to prosecutors she also repeatedly provoked her husband, showing she was not afraid of him.

If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison. She is due back in court for a pretrial hearing May 29.

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