A 37-year-old Menlo Park man was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for fatally shooting a taxi driver in Redwood City in 2003. Lousa Mataele was convicted of first-degree murder in San Mateo County Superior Court on April 13 for the death of 21-year-old cab driver Davinder Singh on Sept. 13, 2003. At today’s sentencing hearing, the uncle of the victim spoke to the court to describe the emotional harm his family has dealt with because of the death, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Wagstaffe said the uncle was too emotional to finish his speech, and a prosecutor finished reading the statement he had prepared. Mataele was initially found incompetent to stand trial in 2005 and was placed at Napa State Hospital. But in April 2008, the California Department of Mental Health found that his competency had been restored and a judge reinstated criminal proceedings. In addition to murder, Mataele was found guilty of fatally shooting Singh in the commission of a robbery and of attempting to rob Singh before Mataele killed him. Jurors also convicted Mataele of attempted murder for shooting another man in the taxi, Jaime Torres, but found him not guilty of attempting to rob Torres. The murder occurred shortly after 3 a.m. on Sept. 13, 2003. The previous night, Mataele and Torres, 23, had been drinking together at a Redwood City bar, according to prosecutor Joe Cannon. After leaving the bar, Torres and Mataele went to the home of a friend of Torres where they spent the next hour. The friend eventually called a taxi for the pair. The taxi that responded was Singh’s. Torres told Singh to take him to another bar near his home. As Singh made a right turn from El Camino Real onto Oak Avenue, Mataele pulled a gun out of his backpack, pointed it at Singh and told him to put his hands in the air, Cannon said. One shot was fired — a warning shot, according to Cannon – and Singh reached back and grabbed the barrel of the gun. That’s when Mataele fired two shots into the back of Singh’s head, killing him, Cannon said. The taxi, which was still moving, crashed into a parked car. Cannon said Mataele then turned the gun on Torres and demanded his cell phone and gold teeth. As Torres tried to escape, Mataele fired at him, grazing him with a bullet, Cannon said. Mataele then walked from the taxi to a nearby bus stop, where police found him and arrested him 15 minutes later. He was in possession of the gun prosecutors say was used to shoot Singh.
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