BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The case of a woman convicted of murder and robbery in 2012 is being sent back to Kern County for a hearing under changes to the state’s felony-murder rule.
Milani Larrea was denied a hearing last year after a Kern judge examined the jury’s verdicts and concluded she was a major participant in the events leading to the death of 54-year-old Wesley Nunley and acted with reckless indifference to human life.
On Monday, however, an opinion filed by the 5th District Court of Appeal, which had previously upheld the Kern judge’s ruling, said the state Supreme Court tossed its decision in light of new case law. The appellate court is now returning the case to Kern County for further proceedings.
A hearing date has not been scheduled.
Larrea, 49, and co-defendant Abel Gaeta Jr., 44, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and a third defendant, Ronnie Fleming, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and received 11 years, according to court records.
In 2019, the felony murder law changed so that a person now has to actually commit or aid in a killing, or have the intent to kill, during the commission of a crime in order to be charged with murder. Otherwise, they can only be charged with the underlying felony, whether it’s robbery, kidnapping or another crime that resulted in death.
Previously, defendants could be found guilty of murder and sentenced to life terms in prison in cases where they weren’t the actual killer but committed a dangerous felony such as robbery or burglary that resulted in death.
Larrea has argued her first-degree murder conviction should be dismissed because she was not the actual killer and didn’t assist Gaeta in the killing. She also argues she didn’t act with reckless indifference to human life.