LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Sentencing is set today for a man convicted of fatally stabbing a young mother of two in her South Los Angeles apartment more than four decades ago.
Jurors deliberated about three hours before finding Kenneth Ray Matthews, 61, guilty last Dec. 20 of first-degree murder for the Dec. 6, 1977, killing of Leona Davis, who was stabbed once in the throat.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of attempted rape but rejected the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery or attempted robbery.
The 25-year-old woman was attacked at her home in the 8700 block of Menlo Avenue just after putting her two young sons — then ages 4 and 7 — to bed.
The victim’s apartment had been ransacked, drawers were pulled out and piled on top of Davis, who was nude except for a red nightgown that was pulled up over her head, Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee told jurors.
Three fingerprints found in the home, along with DNA evidence collected from the victim’s anus, linked Matthews to the crime, the prosecutor told the six-man, six-woman panel during her closing argument, noting that Matthews adamantly denied knowing the victim when he was questioned by police.
The prosecutor said that most of the physical evidence that had been booked from the scene of the crime had subsequently been destroyed but urged the panel to “look at the evidence we have.”
A small personal phone book found at the crime scene contained a small piece of paper with the words “Kenneths sister” and a phone number that was eventually determined to belong to Matthews’ sister, the prosecutor said. Matthews’ attorney, Hui Kim, argued that the prosecution hadn’t proven the case.
“The evidence is a partial DNA profile,” the defense attorney told jurors, noting that one in 10 million randomly selected, unrelated African-American people can be included in that profile.
“That’s not beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kim said.
Matthews’ lawyer told jurors that fingerprint examination is “not a science,” adding that fingerprints were also found at the scene that did not belong to her client.
Matthews — who was 18 at the time of the crime — was arrested in April 2018 by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division. He has remained jailed without bail since then.
Matthews is facing a life prison term with the possibility of parole.
He was not eligible for the death penalty because of changes in state law after the killing.