By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
In a disturbing gotcha video that prosecutors say caught Pitre "red-handed," Hulefeld showed footage from a surveillance camera in which Pitre checks into the Olive Motel at 11:22 p.m. A few minutes later, footage shows him walking to room 5 with a dark-haired girl carrying a black bag. Then, at about 4 a.m., a different camera captures Pitre toting the black bag and moving his car — with the headlights off — to a parking spot close to room 5. Soon after that, a third camera picks up Pitre carrying a large object, wrapped in a comforter, to his car.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words," said Hulefeld as he froze the photo of Pitre carrying the object as the jury watched on a large screen. The silhouette of Gomez's head and shoulders was clearly visible in the frozen image. "Nobody deserves that. Nobody. She was laid to rest on the same mean streets she called home."
Gomez's 40-year-old friend John Hurley testified that he met her through a drug dealer at a bus stop in Hollywood. "She came over with one of my dealers and we got high," he said. "She was very funny. She loved photography."
He invited her to live with him at his one-bedroom apartment in Glendale because he "thought she needed protecting." According to Hurley, who is gay, she was suffering from an abscess and wasn't taking her medication. "I insisted she stay with me till her infection went away," he said.
Gomez and her 25-year-old boyfriend, Matthew Kent, stayed with Hurley off and on, getting high on meth and sometimes not sleeping for days. Hurley testified that Kent was at his home the entire weekend that Gomez vanished. The defense suggested Kent was responsible for the murder. Asked how he could be so sure Kent never left his apartment, Hurley testified: "I could see his feet and smell him."
Pitre's defense attorney Thomas Ahearn noted that Kent was arrested for having sex with Gomez as a minor, and that a protection order was at one point issued against him, barring him from contact with her.
Ahearn asked Hurley whether letting Kent stay with Gomez at his apartment was his idea of "protecting" the girl. Hurley responded: "It was either [Gomez] staying at my place or turning tricks on the street or living, you know, in a cardboard box or an alley or getting picked up by someone that she didn't know that wasn't a safe person, and being killed.
"Yeah, I thought I was protecting her."
Pitre, stone-faced when the verdict was read, will be sentenced on June 3.
Says Novoa, "This was a long, long wait. Every family needs justice."
Steve La conducted research for this story.
Contact the writer at email@example.com.
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