BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man found guilty of strangling a woman at a Bakersfield motel in 2017 has been resentenced after an appellate court reversed his first-degree murder conviction.
Prosecutors decided not to retry Eldrick Richmond, instead accepting the appellate court’s reduction to second-degree murder, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said.
Richmond, 56, was resentenced last week to 35 years to life in prison. He had been serving 55 years to life.
Richmond was found guilty of beating and strangling Delenna Rebecca Ruiz at the Town and Country Motel in East Bakersfield. He told police Ruiz attacked him, and he hit her and grabbed her by the neck to defend himself.
But prosecutors said the evidence showed Ruiz suffered head trauma and was strangled, and a jury returned a guilty verdict.
In reviewing the case, the 5th District Court of Appeal said the trial judge erred in allowing the prosecutor to present evidence Richmond had previously abused three women whom he dated. The prosecutor argued the evidence was admissible to prove intent to kill and to show Ruiz’s death wasn’t an accident.
The appellate court, however, found the evidence wasn’t necessary, and that the prior incidents of abuse had little similarity to the charges Richmond faced.
“The incidents here were not similar enough to prove intent to kill,” the appellate court ruling said. “The most obvious dissimilarity is that Richmond did not kill, let alone attempt to kill, the women in the prior incidents.”
If that evidence had not been presented, the court said, it’s possible that at least one juror could have doubted the killing was premeditated and deliberate — elements that must be proved for a first-degree murder conviction.
The appellate court found the error was not prejudicial to a conviction on second-degree murder as that crime does not require premeditation.