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Wife of slain mayor faces manslaughter charge

LOS ANGELES — The wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo Sr. pleaded not guilty Thursday to a grand jury indictment charging her with voluntary manslaughter for his shooting death last fall.

The grand jury indictment was unsealed against Lyvette Crespo, 43, who allegedly shot her husband three times in the right side of the chest at their home last Sept. 30.

She was ordered to be taken into custody in lieu of $150,000 bail and is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court for a pretrial hearing May 29.

If convicted as charged, she could face up to 21 years in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their 19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son. Lyvette Crespo allegedly grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had allegedly punched their son in the face.

Lyvette Crespo’s attorney, Eber Bayona, has contended that she was a longtime victim of domestic violence. He repeated that contention Thursday, and said Daniel Crespo “was a man who abused not only his wife but other women” and mentally and physically abused his children.

“From the beginning, from day one, I have told you that Mrs. Crespo was a battered woman, an abused woman,” Bayona said. “And at trial, she will avail herself of self-defense, defense of others and the battered-woman’s syndrome.”

He said her family plans to do everything they can to free Crespo on bail.

“I want to ask the public to maintain an open mind and to wait until all the evidence has been presented before they make a final opinion about what happened,” Bayona said. “I’m asking you not to try Miss Crespo in the media.”

Daniel Crespo’s brother, William, has denied allegations that Daniel was abusive, but hinted the mayor had an extramarital affair.

A civil lawsuit filed last Oct. 20 by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.”

Bell Gardens City Manager Philip Wagner said the city “continues to mourn the tragic and untimely death of former Mayor Daniel Crespo, and our hearts go out to the family as they, too, continue to grieve.”

“At this time, it’s in the hands of the justice system and all we can do is to keep the Crespo family and the community in our thoughts and prayers,” he said. “This has been a tremendous loss for Bell Gardens.”