A Norwalk jury is deliberating the fate of a Los Angeles man accused of murdering two San Gabriel Valley men and a Mexico man after luring them with an offer to sell a car in South Whittier nearly 10 years ago.
Briaell Lee could face the death penalty if convicted of the three counts of murder with which he has been charged.
He’s accused of the fatal Jan. 27, 2004, fatal shootings of Mario Larios, 23, of West Covina, his cousin Edgar Valles, 22, of La Puente and their friend, Fernando Pina, 25, of Mexico, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said. The men were slain when they arrived at the South Whittier home of Lee’s co-defendant, Cimarron Bell, 39, to discuss purchasing a Chevrolet Monte Carlo for $8,500.
None of the three men knew Lee or Bell prior to meeting them to discuss the car sale, prosecutors said.
Following the conclusion of closing arguments in the case, the Norwalk Superior Court jury began deliberating Thursday, court officials said.
Co-defendant Cimarron Bell of South Whittier has already been convicted of these three murders, as well as another, and sentenced to death in August of 2011. Bell was also convicted of the murder of his 22-year-old girlfriend Ineka Edmondson of Compton, whose body was found Nov. 12, 2003, in a car at a La Habra industrial park.
In addition to the murders, Lee and Bell were further accused of the special allegations multiple murders, murder for financial gain and lying in wait, allegations Bell’s jury found to be true, making him eligible for capital punishment, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The three would-be car buyers were killed solely for their money, Edmondson’s slaying also involved personal motives on the part of Bell, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Todd Hicks, who prosecuted Bell along with Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee.
Hanisee described the alleged murder-for-money plot as “very egregious,” targeting “particularly innocent and vulnerable victims.
In Edmondson’s slaying, Bell, who was involved in a check-cashing scheme with the woman and believed she was stealing from him, arranged a fatal ambush.
He called her to meet him at Morgan Metals, where he worked and kissed her hello before shooting her three times in the head at close range, D.A.’s officials said.
According to county booking records, Lee had been held without bail pending trial since his arrest in February of 2004.
PHOTOS of Briaell Lee, above, and Cimarrom Bell, below, by Staff Photographer Leo Jarzomb