An attorney representing the wife of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo alleged Thursday that his client was a years-long victim of domestic violence who had endured a "difficult and intolerable" home life before the fight this week that left the politician dead.
Lyvette Crespo's attorney, Eber Bayona, told reporters that the mayor's death was a "very tragic loss for the family." But, he said, his client was prepared to show investigators photographs, statements and other evidence proving she had been abused.
Bayona acknowledged there had been no prior law enforcement calls to the family's Gage Avenue condo, but noted that was not unusual in homes where domestic violence occurs.
"Victims of domestic violence are not always ready to pick up the phone to call police," he said. "Generally speaking, there is fear. They are psychologically imprisoned; they are entrapped in these situations. And sometimes it's not easy for them to tell somebody."
Bayona declined to discuss specifics of the case, even as reporters shouted questions at a news conference outside the Bell Gardens Police Department. An attorney representing the Crespos' son and daughter said her clients "stand behind their mother."
"Things were not as they seemed," Claudia Osuna said, declining to elaborate. "It was a difficult life at home."
Both attorneys said their clients would continue to cooperate with investigators. Bayona said he would ask to meet with prosecutors before they decide whether to file charges.
Osuna declined to explain why the children had their own attorney.
Standing 10 yards from the lawyers at the news conference, the mayor's brother denied the abuse allegations. William Crespo said his brother constantly worked on city business and didn't spend much time at home.
"I never saw any evidence of [abuse]. Show me the evidence," he said. "She doesn't want to go to jail — that is why she is saying that. I just want justice for my brother."
Los Angeles County sheriff's officials say the couple were fighting Tuesday afternoon in their Bell Gardens condominium when their 19-year-old son, Daniel Jr., intervened. The mayor punched the young man in the face, prompting his wife to grab Crespo's handgun and shoot him three times in the upper body, said sheriff's Lt. Steve Jauch, who is overseeing the investigation.
Lyvette Crespo and her son were questioned by detectives and released within hours of the shooting. Investigators said it would be up to the district attorney's office to determine whether to file charges.
Bayona previously told The Times that he was confident his client would not be charged. "Domestic violence and battered woman syndrome is at the center of this case," he said.
The Crespos were high school sweethearts who married as teenagers and moved to Bell Gardens in 1987, according to the city's website. He became involved in community affairs and was appointed to the city's Planning Commission in 1999. Two years later, he was elected to the City Council.
Carmen Avalos, the city clerk in neighboring South Gate and a friend of Crespo for more than a decade, said she was not angry at her friend's wife and felt she should not judge her because she didn't know what happened inside the couple's home.
"I grieve for his whole family. His children lost a father," she said. "And his wife lost a spouse, the father of her children. And she's probably dealing with the guilt of taking someone's life."