BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Two men who were once serving life without parole for participating in a 2012 necklace-snatching robbery in which an elderly woman fell and died will have murder charges against them dismissed, prosecutors said Friday.
The murder convictions of Maxmamillon McDonald, 33,and Lawrence Slaughter, 35, were overturned in 2017 by an appellate court and now, due to a change to the state’s felony murder rule, the District Attorney’s office can no longer prosecute them for murder, prosecutor Eric Smith said.
“I’m not pleased with it,” Smith said. “The change in the law has put the case in the position that it’s in.”
McDonald’s murder conviction was dismissed Friday and he will serve a 24-year sentence on the robbery convictions. Slaughter’s murder conviction is expected to be dismissed April 18, and he will also face “significant time” behind bars for the robbery convictions, Smith said.
A third defendant, Christopher Harvell Patterson, was the person who actually snatched the necklace. Patterson, 26, continues to serve life without parole.
Before 2019, the state’s felony murder rule allowed for murder charges against defendants in cases where they weren’t the actual killer but participated in a dangerous felony, such as robbery or kidnapping, that resulted in death.
A law that took effect Jan. 1, however, now requires a person 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 prosecuted for the underlying crime, whether it’s kidnapping, robbery or another serious offense.
In the case of McDonald and Slaughter, the underlying crime is robbery.
On Aug. 19, 2012, Guadalupe Ramos, 72, was walking to her car with her daughter in the parking lot of the Foods Co. on Haley Street.
Patterson approached and ripped a necklace from Ramos and ran. Ramos fell to the ground and died of cardiac arrest.
Patterson ran to a car occupied by Maxamillon Lee McDonald and Lawrence Slaughter, and the three fled the area.
Slaughter was on parole at the time and wearing an ankle monitor that gave authorities his whereabouts the night of the robbery. Police retraced the suspects’ trail and found surveillance footage of the three men at various locations.