Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Man gets life in prison for raping, killing homeless girl in case that brought scrutiny to D.A.'s three-strikes policy

A man whose murder conviction generated controversy over L.A. County District Atty. Steve Cooley’s three-strikes policy was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for raping and killing a homeless teenage girl.

Two years before the girl's murder, Gilton Beltrand Pitre had been eligible for prosecution under the state's three-strikes law when he was charged with a felony for selling $5 worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer.

His two strikes included a 1994 residential burglary and a 1996 rape.

Under the law, prosecutors could have sought a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Instead, Pitre was allowed to plead guilty to a drug crime in exchange for a 32-month prison sentence, court records show.

Alyssa Gomez, 15, was killed June 4, 2007, four days after Pitre was released from prison.

During Cooley's campaign for attorney general earlier this year, opponents pointed to Pitre's case as evidence that Cooley's policy was soft on criminals. Under Cooley's policy, prosecutors generally do not pursue life sentences for relatively minor offenses.

Cooley has defended his position, saying justice requires that the punishment should fit the crime. His approach has won widespread support during three successful campaigns for district attorney, but it has also drawn fire from critics who say his policy fails to adequately protect society from repeat offenders.

In Gomez’s slaying, prosecutors alleged that Pitre visited the Olive Motel on Sunset Boulevard with the runaway, who had been living on the streets since she was 12. Her body, wrapped in a bedspread from the motel, was discovered the next morning in an alley behind a restaurant.

Prosecutors said Pitre had sex with the girl and then strangled her.

At Wednesday's hearing, Gomez’s sister asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to send Pitre to prison for the rest of his life.

"Please, please never let this happen again," a tearful Elaina Novoa said. "She was a little girl. ... I'm sure he will do it again."

Actress Dyan Cannon, who knew the victim from making a documentary on street kids and runaways in Hollywood, told the judge that Gomez "had a lot of heartbreak and was a good girl."

"She wrote beautiful poetry and sang good songs," Cannon said. "I was with her three days before she was killed. I begged her to go to a place where she could receive help."

Kennedy sentenced Pitre to 75 years to life for murder, 25 years for the statutory rape of the teenager before the slaying and an additional 10 years because of his two prior serious offenses. She noted a security videotape in which Pitre is seen placing Gomez's body in the trunk of his car.

"There is no panic. There is no evidence of regret. ... She was disposed of like a piece of trash," Kennedy said. "Mr. Pitre is one of those people who is a predator."

-- Richard Winton at L.A. Superior Court

Comments () | Archives (14)

What if it was Steve Cooley's daughter, sister, mother, niece, granddaughter that was a victim of this garbage of human being. Would he not seek the maximum sentence?

Miss Novoa - your little sister was living on the streets since she was 12? Why wasn't she living with you?

Good job Cooley! This girl's blood is on your hands. Way to coddle the criminals.

Well you kept letting him out and letting him out until he finally killed this young girl....Great job as usual.

"Why wasn't she living with you?"

I'm guessing you have no experience with runaway teens.

i know kids can be a hand full but i to wonder,why she did not live with the sister????? when was the last time her family seen her alive??with all due respect,i would have been looking for this child every where.May she RIP!

How can a child be homeless when she has immediate family? What kind of sister is this who mourns her loss but didn't take care of her when she was alive? If Gomez' parents are alive, they should be prosecuted for child neglect and endangerment.

all politicians are soft on criminals!

I'll make this short .... Of course I looked for my sister and of course I wanted for her to live with me so badly... But no matter what I did and how much I went out there to plead with her to come with me she refused ,I tried many different things including getting help from Law inforcement. Because she wanted so much to be with my drug /alcohol addicted Mother and Father she said she would follow them. She loved them nomatter what they did. Also I did have Guardianship of my brother and other sister that I was left to raise . so believe me I tried, Also Childrens Court has ALOT to do with happened giving to much to my mother knowing she was distroying Alyssa . So please before you judge please get all the facts . Thank You E.Novoa

This comment section if invaluable...
You get a lot of hard questions and many perspectives...And in this case a response by one of the persons, who did a great job answering the questions...

The primary reason for 3 strikes is to put away identified hard core criminals...
When you have a convicted rapist who was also convicted for burglary (which, if happened at night, he was probably looking to rape someone)...This is a huge opportunity to invoke the 3 strikes law with that most current drug arrest...Cooley and his deputy DAs really dropped the ball in this case...

Proof why Cooley should not be elected as Attorney General. Sweet dreams Mr. Cooley as you ponder on this dead girls crime. Your policy fits you. Inadequate!

The tax payer shouldn't be paying $47 000 per year to imprison someone who sold $5 worth of marijuana for life. Shame that the same prison system releases hardened criminals instead of reformed citizens.

Let's all remember this anger when we are voting for our next attorney genaral!

And how much did the Polanski case cost the city?

Horrible. Goes to show you shouldn't give anyone a THIRD CHANCE!!!!!! Poor girl.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: