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Former L.A. fire captain convicted of murdering woman

Jennifer Flores' body was found in the middle of a street. A trail of blood and tissue led to David Del Toro's Eagle Rock home. The jury rejects a first-degree murder verdict in favor of second-degree.

March 18, 2011|By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
  • David Del Toro, right, with lawyer Joseph Gutierrez, looks toward the jury, which rejected a first-degree murder verdict in favor of second-degree.
David Del Toro, right, with lawyer Joseph Gutierrez, looks toward the jury,… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

A former Los Angeles Fire Department captain was found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday for the death of a woman whose naked and brutalized body was found in the middle of a street about a mile from his Eagle Rock home.

David Del Toro, 54, who was a 23-year veteran of the department when arrested for the 2006 killing, sat expressionless and stared ahead as the verdict was read. The panel acquitted him of first-degree murder for the strangling and beating death of 42-year-old Jennifer Flores.

Key evidence in the case was a trail of blood and tissue that led from the victim's body to Del Toro's home.

Del Toro's attorney, Joseph Gutierrez, told the judge he would take steps to ask for a new trial based on juror misconduct during deliberations.

One juror was dismissed after remarking during deliberation that she could not vote for manslaughter because it would result in too little time in jail, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Grace. Jurors are not supposed to consider sentencing outcomes in voting for guilt or innocence. A second juror was dismissed after she said she could not be impartial after hearing the juror's remark.

Flores' body was found dumped Aug. 16, 2006, with a broken nose, gashes in her head, and her jaw broken on both sides. Police followed the bloody trail to Del Toro's home, where they found the carpet saturated with blood that someone had tried to clean up, as well as the victim's blood inside Del Toro's Toyota Tundra truck.

Flores' brother, Richard Flores, told reporters after the verdict that his sister was a funny, kind and literary person, and that he had hoped the jurors would convict Del Toro of first-degree murder.

"He's not going to suffer as much as he made my sister suffer," he said, surrounded by family members. "He's shown no remorse for his actions; that was evident during trial."

During trial, Del Toro testified that he had met Flores years earlier when she dated his former roommate, but denied that he had any romantic interest in her. On the day of the murder, he said, he argued with Flores, whom he let into his home to wash clothes and stay overnight because he learned she was homeless. But he insisted he did not kill her. He conceded that he did not remember large portions of the night, having gone to bed after heavy drinking and a grueling series of 24-hour shifts at work.

"It was just [a] fog," he said in his testimony. "I was confused, disoriented."

He testified that he awoke during the night and cleaned up a mess he could not explain before returning to bed. He said he "had no reason to kill her."

Grace, the prosecutor, said outside court that Del Toro's claim of having been intoxicated may have led the jury to reject a verdict of first-degree murder.

"I think juries have to wrestle with certain issues, and intoxication was an issue here," he said.

He said he hoped Del Toro's conviction would send society a message about domestic violence.

Gutierrez, Del Toro's attorney, declined to comment.

Del Toro faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to return to court April 15 for a hearing on whether information about the jurors can be unsealed for a possible bid for a new trial.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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