A Sacramento Superior Court jury needed barely a full day of deliberations to convict two men of first-degree murder in the North Highlands pharmacy robbery in which store clerk Tania Gurskiy was shot and killed.
The panel got the case Friday afternoon on Kevin Arnell Peterson and Bernard Krungerrun Reed. Back at work Monday after the weekend break, the jurors reached verdicts by 3 p.m. that are likely to send the two defendants to prison for the rest of their lives, with no chance of parole.
"It's God's will," Alina Gurskiy, the cousin of the 27-year-old victim, said of the verdict. "Knowing that bad people have been put away, it helps a lot."
Peterson, 43, and Reed, 35, were accused of walking into the Rexall pharmacy in the 5600 block of Watt Avenue in North Highlands on Sept. 2, 2010, and holding the place up for money and drugs. Authorities said it was the second time in a month Peterson had robbed the store.
The second time, Derrick Okimoto, the son of the store owner, pulled his gun on Peterson to thwart the robbery. It set off a gunfight in which Peterson, while running out of the store, shot Gurskiy in the head at almost point-blank range, authorities said.
One of Okimoto's shots severed the ring finger on Peterson's left hand. Investigators recovered the fingertip, which made it easy for the jury to convict him, according to the forewoman of the panel.
While it seemed clear on videotapes of the fatal robbery taken from surveillance cameras that Peterson was one of the intruders, the depiction of the second suspect played in the courtroom appeared less conclusive.
"Once we got into the jury deliberation room, we were able to took at the videos ourselves, on our individual computers, and it was a lot clearer," said the forewoman, who declined to give her name, for security reasons. "Also, when you have the still pictures taken from the video, and all the pictures from his personal cellphone, and his arrest photo, we took all of them and laid them out on the table and finally it was determined without a doubt yes, we all knew it was him."
Reed expressed no emotion when the verdict was read and suggested in a remark to his co-defendant in a break before the jury was excused that the outcome came as a surprise to him.
"I didn't see that," he said to Peterson.
Reed's lawyer, Paul Irish, said his client was disappointed in the verdict and that he intends to appeal.
Peterson muttered throughout the readings of the verdicts, which, for him, included two counts of robbery, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon likely to produce great bodily injury, and being an ex-convict in possession of a firearm.
Asked by Judge Troy L. Nunley if he wanted a jury trial on his prior convictions, which could add a 25-to-life "three-strikes" term to his expected sentence of life in prison without parole, Peterson responded with an expletive.
Nunley scheduled the sentencing of Peterson and Reed for June 1.