A Nigerian businessman, Ezeoma Chigozie Obioha, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole during an emotional court hearing on Monday. The 32-year-old was sentenced for the 2015 murder of a woman who was blasted in the face with a shotgun as she walked into a restaurant in Hollywood with her boyfriend.
The tragedy started with a crush and a business deal with Mr Obioha having a crush on his victim, named Carrie Melvin, 30, who had done social media work for his business in 2015. But she turned him down and eventually notified state officials that he owed her more than $1,000 for work she had done to promote his company, prosecutors said.
Weeks later, Carrie was killed by a man who fired a shotgun blast at her face as she walked with her boyfriend to a Thai restaurant in Hollywood. A shotgun on the beach and a bounced check are key clues to the murder, prosecutor says.
The morning after the killing, a boy playing on the beach in Malibu found Obioha’s Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun under a rock. Lying nearby was an unusual shotgun shell, identical to an expended shell found at the crime scene: a white Rio Royal Grand 12-gauge, 00 buck shell with the head stamp “globalshot.com,” prosecutors said.
Jurors deliberated about a day before convicting Obioha and finding true the special-circumstance allegation that he committed the first degree murder for financial gain.
While the sentencing was on, Obioha sat showing no emotion as Carrie Jean Melvin’s relatives told the court that her killing had upended their lives:
Bernard Melvin her father said:
“I have tried to answer my family’s questions, but how do you explain a completely senseless act? We cry every day. I had to hear and see things in the trial that no parent should have to hear.”
The victim’s older brother, Ryan, said Obioha’s insistence that he is innocent compounded the family’s grief. He said he experiences recurring nightmares about his sister’s murder.
In December 2016, after the conviction, Obioha’s defense attorney, Jamon Hicks, told reporters that he was “disappointed obviously” with the verdict and said that he believed the defense had done a “good job of showing that there was reasonable doubt in the case.”
“This is a (case of) he wasn’t the one and that someone else did this, someone murdered her in a terrible fashion, but they got the wrong guy … I’ll always think that they have the wrong person. Our theme was that this was a rush to judgment.”
Obioha’s defense attorneys also argued that the shotgun shells, as well as the gun, were planted. They also claimed that a blast from a Rio Royal shell would have caused more wounds to the victim’s face.
Obioha’s sister, Nkechi Howell, said she was “devastated but not surprised” by the verdict.
“I have to be hopeful that the truth will come out and justice will be served. I know my brother didn’t do this. Our whole family knows that he’s innocent. Someone killed Carrie Melvin, but it wasn’t my brother and we have known that the entirety of this trial.”