Crime - Sacto 911

Jury convicts four - including driver - in robbery-murder near Casino Royale

Fitima Goodman’s son testified that his mother knew she had gotten him into a world of trouble that morning a man died. He could tell when, after the gunfire stopped, their eyes met and she dropped her head.

Whether she knew before then that she was driving her son and four others to a robbery remains unknown. But a Sacramento County jury apparently thought she played enough of a role to convict the 39-year-old woman of first-degree murder in the June 2010 death of Fernando Vichez. On Friday, jurors also convicted her boyfriend, triggerman Jermaine Barnes, and co-defendants Alexander Lewis and Laquwon Warr, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

Jurors additionally convicted all four of second-degree robbery, and found true the special circumstance that the murder was committed during the commission of such a crime, the DA’s Office said in a news release.

They face life sentences without the possibility of parole when they are sentenced Feb. 3.

Vichez, 50, took seven bullets from Barnes’ gun the morning of June 15, 2010, as he walked from the Casino Royale card room in the Arden Arcade area with $1,100 in his pocket.

According to trial testimony, Lewis, now 21; Warr, 21; and a woman named Chelsea Washington, 20, panhandled Vichez as he walked out of the casino. When he gave them $5 pulled from a wad of cash, they phoned Barnes and alerted him to the potential robbery target.

Shortly thereafter, Goodman, with Barnes beside her, picked up the trio, as well as her son, Zevante Goodman, who was taking a walk in the neighborhood to clear his head after learning his girlfriend was pregnant, he testified. His mom said they were going to the store.

But shortly thereafter, the truck doors flew open as Barnes, Lewis and Warr hid, then confronted Vichez on Howe Avenue a few blocks south of Marconi Avenue. When the victim resisted, Barnes pumped seven shots into him.

Zevante Goodman, 16 at the time of the shooting, told the court that he looked back at his mom to see her drop her head on the steering wheel. “She knew she’d gotten me into something she shouldn’t have,” he testified.

Fitima Goodman’s attorney, Jeffrey Fletcher, argued that she didn’t know anything about the planned robbery. Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Hightower, however, countered that Goodman’s refusal to answer her son when he asked that very question amounted to “adoptive admission.”

Hightower also said that by driving and following the directions of others in the truck, Fitima Goodman’s actions were “consistent with following and stalking a victim.”

Zevante Goodman, now 19, and Washington pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in exchange for six-year prison sentences and testimony at trial. Before his arrest, Zevante Goodman was a high school football star.

He, like Washington, is being held in the Sacramento County Main Jail, awaiting his transfer to prison.

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