A Los Angeles jury on Saturday convicted a soon-to-be-father of hiring a hitman to murder his girlfriend and unborn child.
Prosecutors alleged that Derek Smyer, 36, was responsible for the 2001 contract killing of his pregnant girlfriend at the time, 27-year-old Crystal Taylor, because she wouldn’t have an abortion, the Mirror reports.
Jurors found Smyer guilty of second-degree murder in Taylor’s death and first-degree murder for the death of the fetus. Smyer also was convicted of two counts of solicitation of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit a crime.
He is scheduled to be sentenced next year and faces life in prison without parole.
Smyer’s lawyer, Calvin Schneider III, said his client is innocent and that he intends to appeal the verdict.
“I think it’s clear that somebody else committed the crime,” Schneider said. “I’m disappointed that the jurors didn’t find that there was reasonable doubt.”
Smyer’s conviction took more than 15 years to obtain after a judge in 2011 declared a mistrial.
Skyler Moore, 35, the man whom Smyer hired to murder Taylor, also is being prosecuted and a verdict in his case could be announced as early as Monday. Moore has already been convicted of murder in a separate killing and now faces a possible death penalty sentence.
Authorities believe Smyer met Moore while playing basketball and that Moore was enthusiastic about the job so he could burnish his reputation as a merciless hit man.
Taylor was found dead 22 weeks pregnant in her apartment complex.
Investigators approached Moore about Taylor’s death while he was in prison serving a life sentence for a separate crime. Authorities offered to improve his conditions if he helped them. Moore admitted to killing Taylor at the request of Smyer but later recanted out of concern that he was helping “convict an innocent person.”
Deputy District Attorney Rosa Zavala told the jury that Taylor “is not the first girlfriend that defendant Smyer has hurt.”
According to police, Smyer has two kids whose mother, Traci Williamson, was attacked by unidentified perpetrators during each pregnancy. A man cut Williamson’s throat with a knife in the first attack. In the second, the attacker kicked and punched her stomach.
“That relationship had domestic violence written all over it,” Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers said at the trial. “He pleaded with her to have an abortion.”
Schneider, the defense lawyer, attempted to show Smyer in a positive light by presenting pictures of his client smiling after the birth of the children. Schneider also claimed that Smyer dropped out of school so he could support Williamson as she completed high school.
Both of Smyer’s kids were living with him when he was arrested in 2010 for Taylor’s death.
Smyer previously served 14 months in prison for bank fraud from 2006 to 2007.
[Feature Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department/Handout]