People v. Loyd

Decision Date28 September 2000
Docket NumberNo. A080542.,A080542.
Citation83 Cal.App.4th 1166,100 Cal.Rptr.2d 326
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Christine LOYD, Defendant and Appellant.

Jo Anne Keller, Counsel for Appellant.

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General David Druliner, Chief Assistant Attorney General Ronald A. Bass, Senior Assistant Attorney General Rene A. Chacon, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Bridget Billeter, Deputy Attorney General, Counsel for Respondent.

SEPULVEDA, J.

Christine Loyd was convicted by jury of two counts of first degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187)1 and one count of arson (§ 451, subd. (c)) and was sentenced to prison for a term of 55 years to life. She alleges on appeal that the trial court committed reversible error by denying her motion to sever counts, allowing the prosecutor to cross-examine a defense witness about defendant's religious beliefs and permitting a witness to testify to hearsay statements. She further contends that the district attorney committed prosecutorial misconduct by taping some of her jail conversations and by impugning the integrity of defense counsel and referencing defendant's religious beliefs during closing argument. We find no error and affirm.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant was charged by indictment with two counts of murder (counts one and two; § 187) and one count of arson (count three; § 451, subd. (c).) She entered a plea of not guilty. Subsequent motions to quash, strike or dismiss the indictment (§ 995), to sever count one from counts two and three, and to impose sanctions due to the taping of some of defendant's jail conversations, were denied. The case proceeded to jury trial and defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and arson. She was sentenced to prison for 55 years to life. This timely appeal followed.

1. The Myrtle Loyd Homicide.

The murder charged in count one arose from the death of defendant's 76-year-old mother, Myrtle Loyd. On July 19, 1991, Myrtle Loyd failed to appear at her place of work, without calling in. When defendant attempted to reach Myrtle Loyd at work that afternoon, her boss expressed concern about her absence. Defendant informed him that she was out of town and that she would check on her mother when she had a chance. Defendant was in St. Helena from Friday, July 19, until Sunday July 21.

According to defendant's statements, on the morning of July 22, she went to her mother's apartment, found her mother unconscious in the bathtub, and called 911. Police officers arrived and found Myrtle Loyd dead in the bathtub, in a fetal position on her right side, her head pointing toward the faucet. Her hands were clasped to her chest. There was no water in the tub; there was blood at the water line but the officers did not see blood anywhere else. The officers did not notice any lacerations on Myrtle Loyd's head. There was no sign of forced entry and nothing appeared to have been disturbed.

Defendant told police that she found her mother's body when she came by that morning to drop off groceries. Myrtle Loyd's body was in the tub, covered with water; defendant tried to lift her mother out but could not. She pulled the plug to drain the water and called the police. Defendant's demeanor was described by the police as "indifferent." She described her mother's health as poor. She did not mention that her mother worked or that her boss had expressed concern about her missing work on Friday.

The coroner's investigator transported Myrtle Loyd's body to the coroner's office. He noticed blood coming from her mouth and nose, but did not notice any head wounds. He listed the cause of death as a possible drowning. After the police left, various friends and coworkers came by Myrtle Loyd's apartment. One friend cleaned the bathtub so that defendant would not have to do it and noticed that there were three drops of blood on the front edge of the sink in the bathroom.

Among the visitors were the decedent's bosses, James Wark and Ralph Bowles. Defendant told them that her mother was standing in the bathroom in front of the mirror putting on makeup, had a stroke or heart attack, and fell into the bathtub, striking her head.

An autopsy was performed and six separate lacerations were discovered on the back of the decedent's head. One laceration was found on her forehead. The lacerations were the result of blunt head trauma caused by a long and heavy instrument. One of her fingers had been dislocated and severely bruised and there were two other bruises on her hand. These hand injuries were consistent with defensive wounds, but not consistent with a fall. According to the autopsy surgeon, Myrtle Loyd could not have received seven wounds on her head by falling down.2 An exact time of death could not be established. Based on his examination, the autopsy surgeon felt it was possible that she died on Thursday night or Friday. She did not die as a result of a heart attack or stroke. Further, the injuries she received (whatever their cause) would have resulted in a significant amount of blood spatter. The autopsy surgeon notified the homicide division of his findings and they responded once again to the victim's apartment. Diluted blood was found on the inside of the shower door and on a small cabinet. Nondiluted blood was located on the bottom edge of the bathroom door. No one saw any blood spatter.3 Despite all of these findings, the coroner's office finally reported the cause of death as accidental and the case was considered closed.

Defendant was periodically in financial trouble. She went into default on her mortgage in 1987 and again in 1990. She made enough back payments in January 1991 to remove the notice of default. She filed for bankruptcy in 1988. She was the sole beneficiary of one of Myrtle Loyd's pension accounts. She received over $77,000 from that account in late 1991 and early 1992. Although she deposited over $72,000 in her bank account in February 1992, by April of that year her account had a balance of only $25,953.68. On December 18, 1992, her account was overdrawn and was closed. Myrtle Loyd had previously given defendant a power of attorney on her bank account. The account was not closed upon Myrtle Loyd's death and her civil service pension checks continued to be deposited there every month. Defendant used the monthly deposits. On at least four occasions in the next three years she forged her mother's name to documents indicating that Myrtle Loyd was still alive, so that the civil service checks would continue to be deposited every month.

Defendant made statements to several people, both on the date she reported her mother's death to the police and thereafter, about what had happened. No one she talked to on July 22 remembered her mentioning that her mother had missed work on Friday or that she had been trying to reach her mother that weekend. She did not tell her brother, Philip Loyd, that their mother had missed work on Friday. She never asked any of the victim's friends when they had last seen or spoken with her mother. She did not ask the apartment manager when he had last seen Myrtle Loyd, nor did she call him over the weekend to check on her. She never told her mother's friends or the police that she had been trying to reach her mother over the weekend; she did tell that to her roommate. She told her roommate specifically that she had been trying to reach her mother all weekend and went to her apartment that morning to check on her. She never told any of her mother's friends or coworkers that there was going to be, or had been, an autopsy of her mother's body. There were slight variations in the stories she told to various people about finding her mother. She told some that she went over to her mother's apartment that morning to bring groceries (and indeed grocery bags were seen in the kitchen), she told others that she went over to surprise her mother before work and to have coffee with her, and she told her roommate that she went over to check on her mother because she had been trying to reach her all weekend. Defendant did seem upset, like a grieving daughter in shock, trying to maintain control.

Defendant's brother testified that he believed his mother's death to be accidental. He was very close to his sister. He did not believe she was involved in causing their mother's death. He believed that Alan Breckstein (his mother's hairdresser) also had a key to his mother's apartment. He and defendant joked during a telephone conversation about trying to blame their mother's death on Alan. He also attempted to explain a taped telephone conversation between himself and defendant, during which they discussed the authorities being "convinced by us" that Myrtle Loyd's death was accidental, as merely a comment that the police viewed the death as an accident, just as they did. It was not an admission on their part.

It was only after the death of Virginia Baily in 1994 that the investigation into Myrtle Loyd's death was reopened.

2. The Virginia Baily Homicide and Arson.

Counts two and three arise from the death of 59-year-old Virginia Baily and the arson of her residence. In the early morning of June 25, 1994, a neighbor discovered that Virginia Baily's house was on fire. After calling the fire department, he called defendant, as he knew she was watching the home while Baily was away. Defendant then called the fire department and asked if they had found a body inside the house, indicating that Baily may have changed her mind about being away. The fire department subsequently found Baily's body face down on the floor of the dining room, under roof debris.

The area of origin of the fire was determined to be where the victim's body was located. Baily's head was approximately six feet from the fireplace. Her head was so badly burned that no...

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1 cases
  • People v. Loyd
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 28 September 2000

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