DESERT HOT SPRINGS – A murder charge that could result in the death penalty was filed Wednesday against a parolee accused of gunning down a clerk at the same Desert Hot Springs market he was convicted of robbing nearly a decade ago.
Neil Augustus Edmund of Desert Hot Springs was arrested Saturday at a home in Palm Springs on suspicion of the Feb. 4 shooting death of 33-year-old Juan Pablo Munoz-Tovar during a holdup at the Super 1 Food Store at 68075 Hacienda Blvd.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed a special circumstance allegation of committing a murder during a robbery, which will allow the district attorney’s office to pursue capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole if Edmund is convicted.
A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made later in the case, district attorney’s spokesman Michael Jeandron said.
“We are going to look at the case, give it a complete review, and ultimately District Attorney Rod Pacheco will make that decision,” he told reporters.
Desert Hot Springs police Chief Pat Williams called the shooting a “tragic and senseless killing.”
“If there is any case that’s ever a capitol murder case, this case is that case,” Williams said. “Any time a life is taken, and clearly in asenseless crime as this, it affects the whole community.”
The parolee has two robbery convictions — one involving the same store nearly 10 years ago, when it was known as Gibson’s Market, according to Sgt. Radames Gil.
Munoz-Tovar was shot in the head with a semiautomatic pistol, even though he was cooperating with the gunman, according to police.
“Basically from what we’ve been able to gather from the statements and surveillance video, it was a robbery gone bad,” Gil said.
The clerk, who had worked in the store for about a year, left behind a wife and five children.