UPDATE (5/27): A Kern County jury found Okuwoga guilty on all counts today, according to the Kern County Superior Court.
Okuwoga, 32, was charged with three counts of murder, among other offenses. He is set to be sentenced on June 25. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
(5/26): BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Tokunbo Okuwoga brutally beat a man during an attempted robbery in 2009 then killed three people a year later to eliminate witnesses he believed would testify against him, a prosecutor said.
The evidence points to Okuwoga as the gunman who opened fire inside a home on Bradley Avenue, leaving behind two bodies and a wounded man who died days later, prosecutor Eric Smith told the jury Wednesday during his closing argument.
Defense lawyer Gary Turnbull said Okuwoga is guilty of attempted robbery but not murder or attempted murder. He said witness testimony indicates another, unidentified man was in the house the night of the shooting.
That man committed the killings, not Okuwoga, Turnbull said.
Both sides finished their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon and the jury began deliberating about 2:45 p.m.
Okuwoga, 32, is charged with three counts of murder, among other offenses. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
He wore restraints throughout the trial. Judge John W. Lua told the jury they were not to infer anything from the restraints, and the defense said Okuwoga had them on for his own safety.
The decade-long delay from the time of Okuwoga’s arrest to his trial is partly due to him previously being found incompetent to stand trial. He was sent to a state hospital and restored to competency.
As he went over the evidence presented at trial, Smith noted Okuwoga’s shoes had one of the victims’ blood on them. Witnesses testified Okuwoga was inside the home and armed with a gun before the shooting occurred. Police arrested Okuwoga the next day at a bus station in Fresno, where he had a ticket to San Diego.
Smith said Okuwoga planned to flee to Mexico to avoid capture.
The case has its origins in an attempted robbery that occurred Sept. 23, 2009, the prosecutor said.
On that day, Okuwoga, Felipe Bravo Jr. and Anh Vu Bui snuck into a home on Ginger Lane where Okuwoga assaulted the homeowner and the other men ransacked the house for valuables, Smith said. DNA testing of a glove left behind at the house led police to Okuwoga and Bui.
Detectives questioned the two. Okuwoga suspected Bui and possibly even Bravo told police about his involvement.
Okuwoga is an associate of the Eastside Crips, Smith said, and to a gang member’s way of thinking there is no act more reprehensible than “snitching.” Someone who cooperates with police is expected to be dealt with, the attorney said.
Okuwoga didn’t hire an attorney when it came to fighting the attempted robbery case, Smith said. He decided to settle it by himself, with a gun.
“His method of fighting a case is to eliminate all the witnesses and people who know what happened that day (in the attempted robbery),” Smith said.
On the night of Sept. 22, 2010, Okuwoga arrived at the Bradley Avenue home and fatally shot Felipe Bravo Jr. and Daina Caraveo, both 22, at close range, killing both, Smith said. He also shot Felipe Bravo Sr., 43. He died days later at a hospital.
Bui, who was at the home, testified Okuwoga showed up and began questioning Bravo Jr. about the police investigation. While they talked, Bui noticed the front door had been left open. He walked to the door and saw shadows coming up the driveway.
Bui shut the door and Okuwoga either hit or shoved him, according to Bui’s testimony. Bui said he ran down a hallway then heard “a lot of gunshots.” He said he hid in a closet, then escaped with a friend who was also at the house. He said they ran until a car picked them up.
Caraveo’s two children, ages 3 and 5, were in the house at the time. The 5-year-old, now a teen, testified she witnessed her mother’s shooting and described the shooter as skinny, Black and tall with big eyes.
That describes the 6-foot-2 and slim Okuwoga as seen in photos and video from 2010, Smith told the jury.
The teen, Sharae Brown, testified she heard another man in the hallway after the shooting. Other witnesses, including Bui, indicated at least one other person had entered the home.
The unidentified man was the shooter, Turnbull argued. He acknowledged Okuwoga participated in the attempted robbery and deserves to be found guilty of the charges stemming from that case.
But his client’s not a killer, Turnbull said.
After the shooting, Okuwoga went to his girlfriend’s house, according to testimony. The girlfriend admitted to getting rid of his clothing and shoes but didn’t provide an explanation why.
The shoes were recovered by police. Bloodstains on them were tested and determined to have come from Bravo Jr., according to testimony.
The girlfriend took Okuwoga to his sister’s house, and he was then driven to Fresno, Smith said. When arrested at an Amtrak bus station, Okuwoga had another man’s identification on him and a ticket with a final destination of San Diego.