California

Bell Gardens mayor abused wife for years before she shot him, lawyer says

Attorneys representing the wife and children of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo on Thursday described a “difficult and intolerable” home life marred by years of domestic violence that culminated in a fight this week that left the politician dead.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials say Crespo and his wife, Lyvette, were fighting Tuesday afternoon in their Bell Gardens condominium when their 19-year-old son intervened. The mayor punched the teen 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’s attorney, Eber Bayona, told reporters Thursday that Daniel Crespo’s death was a “very tragic loss for the family.” But, he said, his client had long been a victim of domestic violence -- and was prepared to show investigators statements, photographs and other evidence to prove it.

Standing 10 yards from Bayona outside the Bell Gardens police station, the mayor’s brother adamantly denied the attorney’s 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 that. Show me the evidence,” he said. “It has to be proven. She doesn’t want to go to jail -- that is why she is saying that. I just want justice for my brother.”

Sheriff’s officials said there were no prior law enforcement calls to the family’s Gage Avenue condo, and neighbors told the Los Angeles Times that they hadn’t noticed any problems between the couple.

Bayona -- who invoked the name of Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens star who punched his wife and knocked her out in a casino elevator -- said that was not unusual.

“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 other details of the case, as did the attorney representing the Crespos’ son and daughter. Claudia Osuna said that her clients “stand behind their mother” and are “grieving the loss of their father.”

She also said that “things were not as they seemed.” “It was a difficult life at home that they had,” she said.

Both attorneys said their clients would continue to cooperate with investigators.

Bayona said he would ask prosecutors to meet with him before deciding whether to file charges in the case. He told The Times on Wednesday that he was confident that 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 South Gate, said she became friends with Crespo 13 years ago, when he reached out to her at a time when her city was roiled by corruption and she and others were the subjects of threats.
Avalos described the mayor as a “happy guy” who loved singing karaoke. She said she also got to know Lyvette Crespo, whom she described as a “lovely, wonderful woman,” and the couple’s daughter. 

Avalos said she was not angry at Lyvette Crespo. She said she couldn’t judge the situation because she didn’t know what happened in 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. I don’t feel angry because I don’t know the situation.” 

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