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A San Francisco couple accused of fatally shooting a Los Angeles-area man who was allegedly pimping their teenage daughter pleaded not guilty today to murder charges. Lupe Mercado, 37, and Barry Gilton, 38, have been charged with the murder of Calvin Sneed, 22, of Compton, who was fatally shot shortly after 2 a.m. on June 4. Mercado and Gilton also today denied special allegations that they fired a weapon into an occupied vehicle. Sneed was shot in the head while he was driving near Meade and Le Conte avenues in San Francisco’s Bayview District.
He crashed into a parked car and died at a hospital later that morning. Prosecutors say the longtime couple, who are not married but have four children, shot Sneed after learning that their 17-year-old daughter had become a sex worker in the Los Angeles area and that Sneed was her pimp. The attorneys for Mercado and Gilton today continued to deny that their clients were guilty of shooting Sneed. “The prosecution has provided insufficient evidence,” Eric Safire, Gilton’s attorney, said outside of court. Safire and Mercado’s attorney, Tony Tamburello, argued that Sneed’s ties to a Los Angeles-area gang were enough of a motive for someone else to have shot him.
“There are people who targeted him in the past,” Tamburello said. According to the criminal complaint against the couple, they allegedly traveled to Southern California and, on May 27, tracked Sneed down to a street in North Hollywood where Gilton fired a 9mm handgun at him, striking him. He survived that shooting. Sneed then traveled up to San Francisco to get the pair’s daughter, who had returned to the city, and on June 4 the couple found him again, prosecutors said. Gilton then allegedly fired again at Sneed, fatally wounding him, according to the criminal complaint.
Gilton and Mercado were arrested on June 9, and the attorneys for the pair this week sought the arrest warrant affidavit, which has been sealed by a judge. Without access to the affidavit, the defense does not know the facts supporting the arrests of their clients, Safire said. Judge Samuel Feng, who was not the judge who sealed the affidavit, today denied the defense’s request to unseal the documents. The prosecution also did not reveal in court whether it would pursue the death penalty against Gilton and Mercado.
“This case is getting more ridiculous by the day,” Tamburello said outside of court. Safire said that Gilton works as a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus operator and grew up in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood but was living in the Bayview. Gilton and Mercado are being held on $2 million bail each. They are scheduled to return to court Monday at 11 a.m. to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
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