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Jury deliberations begin in penalty phase of Indio man’s murder trial

Alexis Daniel Rosas and Makayla Jean Massey
RSO / Massey Family
Alexis Daniel Rosas and Makayla Jean Massey

Jury deliberations began today in the penalty phase of the trial for an Indio man who murdered an 18-year-old crime witness.

Alexis Daniel Rosas, 28, and his one-time girlfriend, 33-year-old Maury Duarte, were convicted of first-degree murder on June 17 for the 2019 slaying of Victorville resident Makayla Jean Massey, also known as Anita Garcia.

Jurors also found true special circumstance allegations of killing a witness to a crime and lying in wait for both defendants, determining sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations also applied to Rosas.   

The penalty phase of trial in Rosas' case began the week after his conviction, with jurors asked to recommend whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for Duarte, but the special circumstance allegations open her to a possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Her sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Duarte is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, and Rosas is being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

Maury Duarte

According to a trial brief filed by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, Massey's boyfriend, identified only as ``Abram,'' had been at odds with Rosas, a documented member of an Indio street gang, bearing the moniker ``Trigger,'' for some time. The conflict had resulted in the defendant allegedly harassing and attacking the victim on multiple occasions.   

On June 24, 2019, the feud led to Rosas allegedly going to the abandoned house in the 45-400 block of Oasis Street where Abram and Massey were residing and shooting Abram in the chest -- an act Massey witnessed and detailed to Indio police immediately afterward.

Abram was hospitalized but ultimately recovered from the wound.

After the shooting, Massey checked into a Motel 6 in Indio, possibly in an attempt to hide, but Rosas learned of her whereabouts and that she had made contact with police, prompting him to plan her murder, prosecutors said.   

He enlisted Duarte's assistance, and they used her 2005 Toyota Camry to get around. In the predawn hours of June 25, 2019, Rosas went to the victim's motel room and persuaded her to come out, then physically restrained her inside the Toyota, which Duarte drove to a vacated ranch in the 82-600 block of Avenue 53 in Thermal, according to court papers.   

Once at the location, Rosas shoved the petrified victim out of the car and ordered her to start walking toward a gate.   

``The defendant kicked her in the stomach, causing her to fall to the ground,'' the brief said. ``Rosas then shot Makayla five times. One shot was to her head. He knew he had killed her after the second shot, but he continued to shoot bullets into her body.''

He left the victim where she was slain, and he and Duarte headed back toward Indio, dumping the .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol that he'd used to kill Massey on a roadside, according to the prosecution.

Massey's remains were discovered within a couple of days, leading to a sheriff's investigation that pointed to Rosas as the murderer. The defendants were arrested without incident on Avenue 42 in Indio on June 30, 2019.

Court papers stated that both Rosas and Duarte conspired in retail fraud, but neither had documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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