The wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo has been freed after serving less than six weeks in county jail for shooting him in the chest, authorities confirmed Tuesday.
Lyvette Crespo, 45, was released from jail at 10:02 a.m. Monday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Crespo was taken into custody Jan. 20 to begin serving a three-month county jail term stemming from the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband, Daniel. She had already served two days of the term before the sentence was imposed.
Over the objection of the victim’s brother, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy went along last month with a plea agreement negotiated between prosecutors and Lyvette Crespo that also calls for her to perform 500 hours of community service and complete a one-year anger management course.
At her sentencing, the judge said 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.
“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 told the defendant.
Lyvette Crespo — the mother of two grown children — pleaded guilty Nov. 30 to voluntary manslaughter.
“I don’t believe that Lyvette Crespo deserves to go to prison for this,” the judge said at the defendant’s sentencing last month, noting that she was initially surprised by the terms of the plea agreement but subsequently spent hours reviewing evidence, including grand jury transcripts.
The couple’s son 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.
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 has questioned why his sister-in-law shot her husband instead of calling 911. He denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but acknowledged that the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife.
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.”
Bell Gardens residents will have a special opportunity to meet the newest member of the city council next Monday when Maria Pulido is sworn in during the council’s annual reorganization ceremony when council titles and assignments for the year ahead are made.
Pulido was appointed Nov. 23 to fill the seat left vacant by the death of mayor Daniel Crespo, fatally shot Sept. 30 by his wife during a domestic dispute at their Bell Gardens home.
At just 24 years of age, she is the youngest woman to ever serve on the council. EGP spoke with Pulido this week to get her view on the job ahead.
For some, the death of the popular mayor has left a void on the council, but Pulido told EGP her job isn’t to do everything as Crespo would have, but to find her own voice when dealing with city issues.
“I doubt we have the same mentality and ideologies,” said Pulido about Crespo. “So, [while] there is pressure, I can’t change the way I think just to accommodate those expectations,” she told EGP. “Otherwise, I’m not going to be serving the rest of the residents.”
Pulido has only attended two council meetings so far so it may still be too soon to tell, but the political novice says she doesn’t shy away from controversies and has no qualms about asking questions when something’s not clear.
“I’m comfortable with the idea that there are no dumb questions,” she said. In her view, asking questions publicly keeps residents from thinking the council votes blindly on whatever goes before them.
Being seen as independent is important to Pulido.
She says council decisions affect the city’s 52,000 residents, so she has to speak out if she disagrees with staff or her fellow council members. “I’m not going to vote one way just because I don’t want to disagree with four other people,” she emphasizes.
Pulido says she’s been spending time reviewing past staff reports with City Manager Phil Wagner to help her get up to speed on the city’s finances and her role on the council.
Wagner describes Pulido as “eager to learn ” and having “compassion for the city.”
The longtime city administrator, who over the years has witnessed many of the city’s fiercest political rivalries, told EGP, “It does not seem she has political ties to anyone, which in my opinion is rare.”
Those political rivalries have at times erupted during city council meetings, with residents accusing council members of corruption and heated debates and finger pointing between council members, especially if it’s election season. Those outbreaks are less common these days, but Pulido tells EGP she is prepared to not take the attacks personally if it happens again. She wants to be seen as transparent and reliable and says she will refrain from making promises she can’t keep just to make someone feel good.
In a city where it is not unusual for council decisions to be met with suspicion, Pulido’s appointment has drawn little reaction from the city’s usual vocal galley of critics, especially surprising since Pulido works at the Briarcrest Nursing Center in Bell Gardens, the same facility where Councilwoman Jennifer Rodriguez is employed.
“I don’t think I was brought in…I worked for that recognition,” says Pulido about her appointment. “I made the extra effort to advocate for myself before the council made their decision.”
Wagner tells EGP those who tend to be vocal may simply have no reason to complain.
“Maybe people are pleased with her appointment, and have no issue,” he said.
Pulido has already met with the Neighborhood Watch, Bell Gardens High School students, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and residents at local events, such as “posadas” and other Christmas programs, and will soon go on a ride-a-long with police to learn more about crime in the city. She says she also hopes to meet with Montebello Unified School District officials, since Bell Gardens youth attend MUSD schools.
At last week’s meeting, the new councilwoman was attentive, taking notes on comments made by staff and concerns raised by residents.
“A lot of people expect me to be nervous,” but the city’s “staff has really made me feel comfortable and prepared,” she points out.
Pulido is working on her Masters Degree in social work at Cal State Long Beach, something she says goes hand in hand with government.
“Social workers and public officials are both agents of resources,” she said. “We both connect and obtain information for residents.”
She says her priorities are public safety and ensuring the city balances its budget, which according to Wagner will mean continuing to address the ongoing fallout from the dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency, unsustainable water rates and the economy in general.
Pulido says neither her young age nor status as a full time student will prevent her from doing her job on the council, and might actually come in handy.
“Since I am younger, I can bring in that population that identifies with me, that would otherwise not be comfortable speaking up,” Pulido said. “If anything, it’s an asset.”
A judge on Jan. 28 is expected to decide whether the attorney for the mother of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, whose wife is accused of fatally shooting him at their home, will get copies of the homicide investigation report he says he needs to get his client’s case ready for trial.
Otilia Santos’ attorney, James Devitt, filed court papers Dec. 31 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.
“The report will be needed by plaintiff’s experts to prepare for trial,” Devitt wrote. “It is obviously material and there is good cause for its production since it may relate to the defenses in this case, as well. There is no alternative way to procure it.”
In court papers filed Jan. 14, lawyers for the Police Department said they will only turn over the records sought by Devitt 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.
Both the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office believe that the records sought by Santos’ attorney are privileged because the investigation into the death of the plaintiff’s son is still ongoing, according to the court papers of the Police Department lawyers.
The public interest in prosecuting a homicide is more important than a plaintiff’s ability to pursue a civil suit, according to the court papers of the attorneys for the BGPD.
Santos filed suit Oct. 20 against daughter-in-law Lyvette Crespo over the death of Daniel Crespo, 45, who was shot Sept. 30.
Sheriff’s investigators said he 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 Crespo opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”
Lyvette Crespo, 43, was not arrested. Sheriff’s officials forwarded their investigation to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether any charges should be filed.
Lyvette Crespo’s attorney contends she was a longtime victim of domestic violence. Crespo’s brother, William, has denied the allegation, but hinted the mayor had an extramarital affair.