State

Jury acquits Modesto teen in attack

A Stanislaus County jury on Friday acquitted the Modesto teenager who was charged with the drive-by shooting of a man pushing his baby boy in a stroller through the La Loma neighborhood in July.

Travis Lee Stephenson, 19, of Modesto was found not guilty of attempted murder and enhancements that could have brought him 68 years to life in prison.

The jury deliberated for a little less than a day before issuing its verdict.

Defense attorney Mary Lynn Belsher said prosecutors had no physical evidence of the crime, such as a car, weapon or gunshot residue.

"The justice system worked," Belsher said. Her client has been in jail since July on $750,000 bail.

"A 19-year-old boy was given his life back by a jury in this county," she added. "It was the right thing."

Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said the verdict was disappointing but that she stands by the system.

"We can't really argue with what happened," Shipley said. "We believe we have the evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But that's why you have 12 people who sit in a neutral capacity and make a decision."

Police called the July 13 shooting at 11:15 a.m. at Santa Rosa and La Loma avenues an "extremely brazen act of violence."

A 33-year-old man was critically injured by three gunshot wounds but his girlfriend and baby son were unhurt. A bullet pierced the stroller.

The man, woman and child were walking along tree- lined La Loma Avenue when the shots rang out. They were headed east when approached by a four-door Honda headed west, toward downtown.

Multiple gunshots were fired from the vehicle. The Honda then turned onto Santa Rosa Avenue and last was seen going south.

After the father was shot, he ran for about half a block in an apparent attempt to get away from the shooter. He fell and lay bleeding on a lawn near La Loma and Las Palmas Avenue.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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