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 victim’s family.
Wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit, 22-year-old Evan Lovett showed no emotion during the hearing, avoiding eye contact with the victim’s 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 Monday’s sentence. Associated with the murder charge were two special circumstances: committing a robbery during a murder and committing a burglary during a murder.
The victim’s family members were allowed to address Lovett in court at the beginning of the hearing. Lovett seemed unfazed as kin including the victim’s 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 victim’s 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 Lovett’s 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 trial’s prosecutor, said he was pleased with the outcome of the case. “This was a vicious robbery that turned into a murder,” Slocum said. “The court’s sentence is consistent with the crime that was committed.”
According to the prosecution, Lovett went to the victim’s 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 victim’s Chrysler. Merced police responded to a crash a few hours later and spotted the victim’s 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 Lovett’s clothes belonged to Munsayac, and Lovett’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails.
During the trial, the prosecution used Lovett’s 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 he’d planned to take Munsayac’s 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 Tuesday’s hearing, Lovett’s attorney, William Davis, said his client will file an appeal in the case.