MERCED — The convicted killer of Merced restaurateur Benjamin Munsayac was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole Tuesday during a somber court hearing punctuated by tears and expressions of sorrow by the victims family.
Wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit, 22-year-old Evan Lovett showed no emotion during the hearing, avoiding eye contact with the victims numerous friends and family members gathered in the courtroom.
A jury convicted Lovett last month of first-degree murder for killing Munsayac during a robbery the evening of Feb.20, 2012.
Musayac was strangled and beaten with the claw side of a hammer inside his 128 E. Main St. home. Munsayac, 49, was the owner of Traditional Filipino Cuisine restaurant in Merced. He also owned a caregiving business, where he employed Lovett from December to January 2012
Judge Ronald Hansen handed down Mondays sentence. Associated with the murder charge were two special circumstances: committing a robbery during a murder and committing a burglary during a murder.
The victims family members were allowed to address Lovett in court at the beginning of the hearing. Lovett seemed unfazed as kin including the victims 19-year-old daughter, Bianca Munsayac, expressed feelings of anger, bitterness, and sorrow.
Bianca Munsayac detailed how Lovett robbed her family of a caring, generous man who was loved by many. Evan Lovett is not only a murderer, but a thief, Bianca Munsayac said, her voice calm and direct. I wish that you may know the suffering that my father felt.
Veronidia Colifores, the victims sister, told Lovett that Merced is a much more beautiful place without him around. Colifores said her brother gave Lovett a job to lend him a helping hand and ended up being brutally murdered.
You do not have Jesus in your heart. Your life is worth nothing, Evan, Coliflores said, adding that she feels sorry for Lovetts infant child. I hope your kid will not have any single influence (from) you. I beg you to stay away from your kid.
Merced County Deputy District Attorney Steven Slocum, the trials prosecutor, said he was pleased with the outcome of the case. This was a vicious robbery that turned into a murder, Slocum said. The courts sentence is consistent with the crime that was committed.
According to the prosecution, Lovett went to the victims 128 E. Main St. home, entered his bedroom and strangled him. The victim fought for his life as Lovett picked up a hammer and struck him in the head, prosecutors said, and Lovett left the scene in the victims Chrysler. Merced police responded to a crash a few hours later and spotted the victims abandoned car in the 800 block of East Childs Avenue. Lovett was found hiding in the bushes nearby with blood on his clothes.
The physical evidence against Lovett was strong. A Department of Justice lab determined blood on Lovetts clothes belonged to Munsayac, and Lovetts DNA was found under the victims fingernails.
During the trial, the prosecution used Lovetts statements to family members as evidence. During a phone conversation with his mother, Lovett said he felt the victim had wronged him because he was owed money, and hed planned to take Munsayacs car and go to Los Angeles to get his head straight.
Merced police never told Lovett during interviews that the murder weapon was a hammer. However, during a conversation with his mother, Lovett claimed he was with someone else who had killed Munsayac and that the other person used a hammer to commit the crime.
During Tuesdays hearing, Lovetts attorney, William Davis, said his client will file an appeal in the case.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209)385-2431 or email@example.com.