MARTINEZ -- A prosecutor told jurors Monday that a Brentwood man knew what he was doing when he killed a woman in 2010 by hitting and dragging her with his pickup truck on Cavallo Road in Antioch.
But the defense attorney for defendant Lucio Rivera-Avila said the 53-year-old handyman thought he had run over Shelly Baker's bag of laundry, and was unaware that he had hit the 47-year-old Antioch woman until police notified him about her death.
Attorneys gave their conflicting narratives of Baker's Dec. 7, 2010, demise on Monday during opening statements at Rivera-Avila's murder trial.
Baker and Rivera-Avila were acquaintances who had spent time together only a few times before the fatal incident. Baker was sometimes homeless, and Rivera-Avila, with a penchant for prostitutes, had hoped to pay her for sex when she called him on Dec. 6, 2010, asking whether she could do her laundry at his house, deputy public defender Wayne Anderson said.
Baker became belligerent while drinking vodka at Rivera-Avila's house, so he wanted to drive her back to Antioch after he did her laundry, Anderson said. During the drive, Baker allegedly threatened to kill Rivera-Avila and, at one point, grabbed the wheel of his pickup truck.
Shortly before 2 a.m., the pair pulled into a butcher shop parking lot at 18th Street and Cavallo Road. They argued loudly and caught the attention of a Contra Costa Times newspaper carrier and his wife.
Dark surveillance video played for the jury shows what happened next: Baker gets out of the passenger's side door, and Rivera-Avila comes around and pulls out her laundry bag. As she is picking up loose clothes from the ground, he gets back into the vehicle. He backs up then accelerates and hits her so that she collapses onto the hood of the truck. He continues driving, and her body disappears under the vehicle.
Deputy district attorney Molly Manoukian said Rivera-Avila dragged her for about 60 feet before driving onto a curb to "scrape" Baker off the vehicle, then driving away. Police arrived moments later, having been flagged down by the newspaper carrier who ran to Baker's aid.
Manoukian said Rivera-Avila intended to kill Baker, just as he intended to harm a woman he ran over in Bay Point in 2008. That woman will testify that Rivera-Avila ran over her because she had stolen money from him after he solicited her for prostitution, Manoukian said.
"There is no question he felt he was entitled to kill (Baker), that she was damaged goods and that no one would care," Manoukian said.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.