April 17, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Man Accused of Ordering Killing of Pregnant Girlfriend Put on Trial

A man accused of finding someone to shoot his pregnant girlfriend in the head was back on trial Monday, alongside the alleged gunman, as two juries listened to opening statements.

Prosecutors said Derek Paul Smyer, 36, had 27-year-old Crystal Taylor killed after she refused to have the abortion he demanded.

“Her only crime in life was to want another child,” Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers told jurors.

Smyer, who was arrested and charged with murder a decade after the Sept. 25, 2001, killings of Taylor and her unborn son, is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

A mistrial was declared for Smyer in August, when an earlier set of jurors declared a deadlock.

This trial includes co-defendant Skyler Jefferson Moore, 35. Moore is serving a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole for an unrelated 2001 killing and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.

Prosecutors said Smyer and Moore met at the basketball courts at Anderson Park in Redondo Beach.

Moore was a member of the East Coast branch of a Southern California gang and new to the area, according to Deputy District Attorney Rosa Zavala.

“He was looking to build a reputation for himself” and offered to kill Taylor in exchange for Smyer’s loyalty, Zavala said.

Defense attorney Richard Everett told the jury panel there was “little or no evidence” that Moore knew Smyer.

“There were no witnesses … no DNA recovered, no fingerprints … no evidence to connect the killing of Crystal Taylor to Skyler Moore,” Everett said.

Moore had been walking his little brothers and sisters to school that morning in the neighborhood of the shooting, Everett said.

After Moore had been in solitary confinement for “several years,” cold case detectives approached him with an offer to move him to a safer facility to serve out his life sentence.

In exchange, “he gives them this story about how he was hired by Mr. Smyer,” Everett said.

Moore later recanted that story over concern about helping to “convict an innocent person,” Everett said. “He didn’t kill Crystal Taylor.”

Though prosecutors said Smyer was always a suspect, he wasn’t arrested until after Moore named him.

Jurors at Smyer’s first trial were shown video of a 2011 interview with Moore in which he confessed to shooting Taylor in the head. In it, Moore said Smyer told him Taylor was “trying to trap him.”

Moore told a prosecutor, “I killed Crystal, this is how it happened, this is why I did it,”  Zavala said.

Moore was also identified by a neighbor, who said he saw him walking up and down the street before he heard a gunshot at the complex and then saw the same man run off.

Prosecutors said Smyer’s history confirmed his guilt.

“Crystal is not the first girlfriend that defendant Smyer has hurt,” Zavala told jurors.

An ex-girlfriend from high school, Traci Williamson, was the mother of two of Smyer’s children, prosecutors said. During each pregnancy, when she was about 7-8 months along, she was attacked by an unknown assailant.

“That relationship had domestic violence written all over it,” Meyers said.”He pleaded with her to have an abortion.”

In the first attack, a man cut her throat with a knife, prosecutors said.

“The (second) attacker focused on kicking and punching her in the stomach,” Zavala said.

“(Smyer) has this unreasonable paranoia about pregnancy,” Zavala said.

Smyer’s attorney, Calvin Schneider III, offered jurors a different perspective on this “horrible, horrible crime.”

Schneider showed photographs of Smyer in the delivery room with Williamson and smiling with his two children, who lived with him until he was arrested, according to the defense attorney.

His client dropped out of high school at 17 so that he could support Williamson while she finished high school, the defense attorney said.

Schneider said Williamson lied about one of the attacks to gain favor with her own family, who didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t working to support her child.

As for Taylor, Schneider said Smyer spoke to her for about two hours the day after he found out she was pregnant.

“(There was) nothing to indicate that she was ever threatened or hurt during that conversation,” Schneider said.

There was only about a week between that conversation and the time that Moore was jailed for 30 days for firearm possession.

“Think about the timeline,” the defense attorney said.

And the man seen fleeing from the scene of Taylor’s shooting got into a black Thunderbird, the defense attorney told the jury panel, adding that neither Smyer nor Moore had access to such a car. ncr8i

“Mr. Smyer’s waited a long time for you to decide this case. He’s waited a long time to vindicate himself,” Schneider told the jury panel.

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