People v. Nacoa, B322641

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSTONE, J.
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. LEONARDO MIGUEL NACOA, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberB322641
Decision Date24 January 2023

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

LEONARDO MIGUEL NACOA, Defendant and Appellant.


California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division

January 24, 2023


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Tulare County No. PCF276752, Antonio A. Reyes, Judge. Reversed in part and remanded with directions.

Allen G. Weinberg, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Rob Bonta, Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Louis M. Vasquez, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Lewis A. Martinez, Amanda D. Cary and Blake Armstrong, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

STONE, J. [*]


During a late-night argument with his wife, Krystal Garcia, defendant and appellant Leonardo Miguel Nacoa pulled out his shotgun, placed the muzzle inside Garcia's mouth or pointed it inches from her face, and fired one shot. Inside the couple's bedroom during the shooting were their two-year-old daughter, Audri N., and infant son, Andrew N. Defendant's seven-year-old stepdaughter, Natalie H., was asleep inside her bedroom during the shooting but woke up to the sound of Andrew crying. Natalie got out of her bed and saw defendant running inside the apartment. Through the front window, she then saw defendant get into his car and drive away. She noticed a big gun near the front door of the apartment.

A jury convicted defendant of second degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a); count 1),[1] and endangering the lives of Natalie, Audri, and Andrew (§ 273a, subd. (a); counts 2-4). The jury also found true the allegations that defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing death (§ 12022.53, subd. (d)) during the commission of the murder, and personally used a firearm (§ 12022.5, subd. (a)(1)) during the commission of the murder and every count of child endangerment. Defendant was sentenced to an overall term of 40 years to life plus six years.

On appeal from the judgment of conviction, defendant contends that the trial court prejudicially erred by refusing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of murder, and failing to provide the jury with an unanimity instruction on the charge of child endangerment of Natalie. He further asserts that his conviction for child endangerment of Natalie was not supported by substantial evidence. Defendant also contends that the court improperly delegated its authority to


award defendant presentence custody credit for his indeterminate sentence on count 1 for murder.

We conclude that the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of murder, and by failing to instruct the jury that it was required to unanimously agree on the manner in which defendant endangered Natalie's life. We also conclude that while the court's failure to instruct on involuntary manslaughter was harmless, its failure to provide an unanimity instruction on the child endangerment count as to Natalie was not. Because we reject defendant's contention that his conviction on this count was unsupported by substantial evidence, the People may retry that count should they so elect. Finally, we agree with the parties that the trial court should not have delegated its statutory duty to award all presentence custody credit to defendant.

We reverse defendant's conviction and the attached enhancement finding on count 2, affirm the judgment in all other respects, and remand the matter for the superior to modify the abstract of judgment to reflect all actual days of presentence custody credit and to afford the People the opportunity to retry defendant on count 2.[2]


1. Prosecution Evidence

A. Events Preceding the December 15, 2012 Shooting of Garcia Joann Sandoval testified that in early December 2012, she hosted a dinner which her sister, Krystal Garcia, and Garcia's husband, defendant,


attended. During the dinner, defendant brought up a prior court date he and Garcia had attended for a custody dispute over one of their children, Audri. According to Sandoval, defendant stated he had brought a gun with him and kept it in his car, and that "he went with intentions to kill [Garcia] if something went wrong."

A few weeks after Sandoval's dinner, on December 15, 2012, Sandoval and Garcia's mother, Frances Sandoval, drove to Garcia's and defendant's apartment around 9:00 a.m.[3] Present at the apartment were Garcia and her three children, Natalie, Audri, and Andrew. Garcia was upset and crying. Defendant initially was not inside the apartment but at some point came back home appearing to be "very, very mad." Defendant called Garcia into their bedroom. Unable to hear the couple outside the bedroom, Frances walked inside to check. When she got inside the room, defendant told Frances that he and Garcia were getting a divorce. Frances drove Garcia and the three children to get pizza at a local restaurant. While out for pizza, Frances sent defendant a text message asking him to resolve his issues with Garcia.

Defendant was gone by the time Frances, Garcia, and the children returned to the apartment. Upon their arrival, Garcia left Frances with the children and told Frances that she "would be back soon." Ten minutes later, Garcia came back to the apartment crying. Frances asked Garcia about her relationship with defendant, and Garcia responded that "she didn't know what to do with [defendant]," as "she wasn't able to make him happy or please him with anything." Garcia threw herself on a chair inside the apartment, leading Frances "to understand that she just couldn't take it any


more [sic]." Frances stayed with Garcia inside the apartment late into the evening but left sometime around midnight. She asked Garcia to go with her because she was afraid something was going to happen to her, but Garcia declined to leave.

Defendant's friend, Luis Vasquez, testified that he and defendant spent most of the afternoon of December 15, 2012, inside a barbershop where Vasquez worked. Defendant's friend Robert Lopez, who owned the barbershop, was also there. Defendant drank alcohol and mentioned an argument with Garcia he had earlier in the day. In the evening, Lopez drove himself, Vasquez, and defendant to two local bars, where they stayed for several hours, and defendant drank liquor and beer, and according to Lopez, appeared to act like a "normal buzzed" person. Lopez then dropped defendant and Vasquez off at their respective apartments. Defendant stumbled a bit getting out of the car but was able to walk to the front door by himself with no problem.

B. Events Occurring Immediately After the Shooting of Garcia

Natalie testified that after going to sleep the night of December 15, 2012, she woke up to the sound of Andrew crying inside her parents' bedroom. Natalie got out of bed and walked to the apartment hallway. Natalie saw defendant and called out to him, but he did not respond. Defendant ran through the front door of the apartment, got into his car, and drove away. After turning back inside the apartment living room, Natalie saw a large gun leaning against the back of a couch. She walked back to the noise of Andrew crying.

When she walked into her parents' bedroom, Natalie saw blood on the bedroom walls. Andrew was inside his crib covered in blood and bone


fragments. Natalie grabbed Andrew and placed him in the living room. After hearing a knock on the front door, Natalie opened the door and saw a man she recognized as Lopez.

Lopez testified that defendant called him on the phone sometime after Lopez got home from the bars. During the call, defendant stated that he had "F-ed up" and that Lopez needed to check in on his children. Lopez met Vasquez outside defendant's apartment.[4] The men found Natalie and Andrew in the living room. After removing both children from the apartment, the men walked into the rear bedroom where they saw Garcia's partially decapitated body spread out across a bed. Next to Garcia's body was Audri, who was alive and covered in blood. The men called 911.

C. Police Investigation

Several officers with the Porterville Police Department responded to defendant's apartment around 12:48 a.m. on December 16, 2012. Officer Sam Garcia testified that he conducted a protective sweep of the apartment, after which he located a deceased body inside a back bedroom. The body was on top of a bed and next to a child covered in blood and brain matter. A child's crib was next to the bed. Inside the crib were pieces of skull, blood, and brain tissue, a fragmented shotgun pellet and wadding, and a bloody napkin. The bedroom walls and floor were covered in blood spatter, brain matter, flesh, bone fragments, and several shotgun projectiles.


Investigating Officers Brett McGowen and Lancelot Kirk responded to the apartment, where they noticed a shotgun sitting on a plastic bag of clothing near the front doorway to the apartment. A piece of human flesh and blood spatter were on the muzzle of the shotgun. A spent shell was inside the chamber of the shotgun. Four live shells of double-aught buckshot were found inside the gun's magazine tube.[5] A tactical holder on the stock of the gun contained four shotgun shells. Two unloaded handguns and an unloaded assault rifle were also recovered from the apartment.

Firearms expert John Hall examined the 12-gauge pump action shotgun and found it to be in good operating condition. Hall testified that basic military training teaches one not to "point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy."

A pathologist with the Tulare County Coroner's office conducted an autopsy of Garcia's body. The pathologist noted that the right side of Garcia's head and face were missing due to an apparent gunshot. Fractured...

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