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Grandmother Faces Trial in Slaying of Son-in-Law : Crime: Jo Lulu Haynes, 74, allegedly lured Kenneth Lisi to her house under the pretense of picking up his children, then shot him.

May 03, 1994|THOM MROZEK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — A 74-year-old grandmother was ordered to stand trial Monday on charges of murdering her estranged son-in-law, whom she allegedly lured to her house under the pretense of picking up his children.

After hearing emotional testimony from the victim's father, who witnessed the shooting, Van Nuys Municipal Judge Jessica Perrin Silvers ruled there was enough evidence against Jo Lulu Haynes to warrant a Superior Court trial.

Haynes is accused of murdering Kenneth Lisi, 43, who was gunned down last Halloween night on the porch of a Northridge home where he once lived with his wife.

Lisi was in the midst of a bitter divorce battle with his wife, Pamela, centering on custody of the couple's two daughters, ages 4 and 11 at the time. Pamela Lisi's attorney contended that the father was sexually molesting the younger daughter.

But a judge had ruled in August that the charges were groundless and awarded custody of the children to Kenneth Lisi.

He was killed less than two months later after being summoned to pick up his children at his wife's house in the 7700 block of Louise Avenue, according to testimony at Monday's preliminary hearing.

Ernest Lisi, the victim's father, testified he had spent the day with his son in Lancaster, where Kenneth Lisi moved after separating from his wife. Kenneth Lisi received a phone call and reported to his parents that he had to unexpectedly pick up his daughters.

"He asked me to follow him down to his old house in Northridge because he had to go pick up the kids," Ernest Lisi said, "and he liked to have me there in case there was any type of problem."

Before Kenneth Lisi went to the door, he stopped by his parents' car. His father told him that "if he needed me, (he could) call me and I'll come right out," according to the testimony.

Kenneth Lisi knocked on the door twice before anyone answered, his father testified.

"That lady came out with a gun in her hand," Ernest Lisi said, pointing at Haynes. "And of course I jumped out of the car, (Ernest's wife) Faye jumped out of the car--but it doesn't take long to fire a shot."

Haynes fired one shot into Kenneth Lisi from about three feet away, and he fell to the ground face first, the father said.

"In the meantime, I was running out of the car," Ernest Lisi said, struggling to maintain his composure. "She bent over him, or stooped over him, and shot him once, twice, a couple more times, I wasn't counting the shots at that time."

Haynes was firing "right at his back," according to the testimony.

"I wrestled the gun out of her hand and ran inside the house to call 911," Ernest Lisi said. "I had the gun in my hand and was on the phone with 911 when she came in after me, I guess wanting to get the gun, and I told her that if she came any closer, I would shoot her."

Ernest Lisi pushed Haynes away, according to his testimony, and his wife grabbed her around the neck. Faye Lisi took the gun and ran outside, eventually turning the weapon over to paramedics.

Later that night, according to Ernest Lisi, he heard a message on his answering machine asking Kenneth Lisi to pick up his children: "Pam's car broke down and she can't bring the children up to Lancaster."

Los Angeles Police Detective Joel Price testified that Pamela Lisi told him that she was out trick-or-treating with the children in West Los Angeles that night. He also said that her car was in working order and that she checked into the Beverly Hills Hotel with the children within hours of the slaying.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Renee F. Urman said the phone call was "a way to lure Kenneth Lisi to her house so she could execute him."

Based on the evidence concerning the phone call, Silvers also ordered Haynes to stand trial on a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait. A conviction on that charge can lead to one of two possible sentences: execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Michael Duffey said Haynes was driven by "her belief he was molesting the children, that became a compelling obsession."

Haynes, who is being held in County Jail without bail, is scheduled to be arraigned May 16.

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