Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 7:28 pm | Fair 63º


Lompoc Man Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder for Fatally Shooting Santa Maria Woman

Clay Murray will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the killing of 37-year-old Rebecca Yap

Defense attorney Adrian Galvan stands next to his client Clay Martin Burt Murray, right, in a Santa Maria courtroom Friday where a jury found the Lompoc man guilty of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Rebecca Maxine Yap in his home. Click to view larger
Defense attorney Adrian Galvan stands next to his client Clay Martin Burt Murray, right, in a Santa Maria courtroom Friday where a jury found the Lompoc man guilty of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Rebecca Maxine Yap in his home.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A Lompoc man whose home surveillance cameras captured his altercation with a woman he fatally shot was found guilty of first-degree murder in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Friday.

Clay Martin Burt Murray, 67, was charged in connection with the shooting of Rebecca Maxine Yap, 37, of Santa Maria, in October 2014 in his Lompoc home. 

Jurors in Judge Gustavo Lavayen's courtroom returned the guilty verdict Friday morning. They also determined that Murray committed the murder during a kidnapping, and deemed it true that he used a firearm in the crime.

Authorities argued that Murray planned the attack as revenge because Yap stole drugs and a credit card from him, while defense attorneys argued their client acted in self-defense, and called him a disabled Vietnam War veteran.

Starting with opening statements March 2 in Judge Gustavo Lavayen’s courtroom, jurors watched a chilling video, with images and audio, revealing interactions before and after the fatal shooting, including the victim’s haunting screams.

The surveillance cameras in Murray's home, that Lompoc police discovered, also captured the man’s life in the months and days leading up to the shooting.

After the verdict was read, a relative of Yap’s mouthed “thank you” at jurors and later hugged Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley.

“This is a horrific and terrorizing murder so I think the verdict fits the crime,” Foley said. “What the defendant did to Rebecca Yap was everybody’s worst nightmare and I think the jury recognized that.

“By holding him accountable for first-degree murder, by finding the firearm allegation true and special circumstance true, it’s an across the board verdict for the people and it’s a great result.”

The video played for jurors several times showed Murray rehearsing the attack the day before, Foley said. On the day of the shooting, the video revealed Murray attacking the woman with a broken cue stick and ordered her to put on handcuffs as she screamed for help. The actual shooting was not captured on camera. 

Immediately after the shooting the cameras show the woman running out of the house as Murray shouted “Halt. Intruder," a move the prosecutor said aimed at setting up his defense.

At the scene of the shooting, Murray told police Yap had attacked him with the stick while attempting to rob him. 

“This case would have been a really difficult nightmare scenario had the police not obtained the surveillance video and then combining the efforts to get the surveillance video with all the work they did to get the text messaging and interviewing Mr. Murray’s associates they really were able to put together a compelling case … so I really want to commend the police department for their efforts.”

Defense attorney Adrian Galvan, who represented Murray along with co-counsel Michael Carty, expressed condolences to Yap's family.

“There are no winners in these types of cases," Galvan said. “We appreciate the time and effort that the jurors spent on deliberating and coming to their decision.  This was a very difficult case for everyone involved,” he added.

The judge ordered Murray to return to court May 23 when he is scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Even before the jurors had reached their verdict, another Lompoc homicide case had started in Lavayen's courtroom, with jury selection and motions at the end of week. That case, one of the oldest active homicides awaiting trial, involves defendant  Eduardo Robles Robles, then 25, being tried in connection with the June 2012 fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Selina Lopez Bustos, 30, of Lompoc. 

Robles fled to Mexico where he was arrested in April 2013 and held a Mexican federal prison as local authorities worked on the extradition process. He was returned to Santa Barbara County in April 2014.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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