The wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Lyvette Crespo, 43, entered a not guilty plea in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom after the indictment was unsealed. Her bail was set at $150,000.
She fatally shot her husband at their home on Sept. 30, 2014, amid an argument over his infidelity in which their 19-year-old son tried to intervene, authorities have said.
Lyvette Crespo allegedly shot her husband three times in the right chest, according to the DA’s office. The indictment alleges she personally discharged a handgun.
Daniel Crespo’s brother alleged in a civil lawsuit that the shooting was not an act of self-defense but a premeditated killing “with malice and in cold blood.” William Crespo also told reporters shortly after the killing that Lyvette Crespo knew how to handle a firearm and that the couple went to shooting ranges.
Family members believed the shooting was triggered by jealousy. Text messages obtained by KTLA from a phone registered to the mayor showed threatening messages, allegedly sent by his wife.
An attorney for the mayor had called for Lyvette Crespo to be prosecuted on a murder charge.
“I don’t think it’s going to matter whether he had a girlfriend, whether he had 10 girlfriends. That doesn’t justify killing your husband,” attorney Jay Devitt said Thursday. “You just can’t blow away your husband with three shots to the chest because he’s got a girlfriend. That’s where you call the divorce attorney.”
Her attorney, meanwhile, had said the shooting came after years of domestic abuse, which was later described in a coroner’s autopsy report that cited the Crespos’ daughter, Crystal, saying her father had abused her mother “verbally and physically” for more than 20 years.
“This is a man who abused, not only his wife, his girlfriends, but mentally and physically abused his children as well,” said defense attorney Eber Bayona. “This is the man who took his wife’s face and shoved it into a computer screen.”
Daniel Crespo, 45, was known to drag his wife by her hair into the bedroom to force her to sleep in the same room as him, the report stated, citing a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detective.
The mayor had threatened to kill his wife and their two children if she ever tried to report the abuse, according to the report.
The couple had been high-school sweethearts who married as teenagers in New York City. They came to Bell Gardens in 1987.
Lyvette Crespo was initially questioned by Sheriff’s Department investigators at the scene of the shooting and then released.
In a 911 call the longtime couple’s son made as his father lay dying, Daniel Crespo Jr. said that the gunfire was not his mother’s fault.
“My parents got in an argument and there were shots fired,” the teen said on the call. “It wasn’t my mom’s fault. She was defending herself.”
Lyvette Crespo, who first name has been spelled “Levette” by the Sheriff’s Department, was set to return to court on May 29.
She faces up to 21 years in state prison if convicted as charged.
“We’re going to have to let a jury decide,” William Crespo said Thursday. “Good luck, Lyvette.”
Daniel Crespo was elected in 2001 to City Council in Bell Gardens, a city southeast of downtown Los Angeles. He was a longtime employee of the county probation department.
Bell Gardens was still mourning Crespo’s death, City Manager Philip Wagner said in a brief statement Thursday.
“At this time, it’s in the hands of the justice system and all we can do is to keep the Crespo family and the community in our thoughts and prayers. This is has been a tremendous loss for Bell Gardens,” Wagner said.