Monday, October 22 , 2018, 3:13 am | Fog/Mist 62º


Lompoc Man Given Life in Prison for Killing Santa Maria Woman in 2014

Judge hears victim-impact statements before sentencing Clay Martin Burt Murray in slaying of Rebecca Yap

Woman and teen hold murder-victim’s photo Click to view larger
Austin Hubble holds a picture of his parents, including mother Rebecca Yap, who was murdered in Lompoc in October 2014. By his side is his stepmother, Kimberly Neal of Orcutt. Clay Martin Burt Murray was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without possiblity of parole for killing Yap.. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Calling the murder of a Santa Maria woman “utterly senseless” after hearing how it affected her young son, a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge on Wednesday sentenced her killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Judge Gustavo Lavayen handed down his sentence Wednesday for Clay Martin Burt Murray, 67, who was convicted of killing Rebecca Yap, 37, in October 2014 at his Lompoc residence. 

The jury found Murray guilty of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Yap, determined that he committed the killing during a kidnapping, and deemed it true that he used a firearm in the crime

Lavayen sentenced Murray after hearing emotional statements written by Yap’s son, Austin Hubble, and the boy’s stepmother, Kimberly Neal.

Neal, an Orcutt resident, spoke in court about how the murder devastated Austin, who was 12 years old at the time, and their entire family, including Austin’s father, Shannon Hubble.

“Rebecca didn’t always make the best choices in life, but I do know for sure she did love Austin with all her heart, and she did not deserve to be murdered, to be taken away from her son,” Neal said, recalling how often Yap would call the boy.  

“Because of the defendant, our phones stopped ringing for Austin,” Neal said.

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

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley said he was pleased the defendant recognized his methamphetamine use led to murder.

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

“I think in Santa Barbara County, we can probably all say that the majority of murders in our county probably circle around the use of methamphetamine,” Foley said.

But Foley said he was troubled the now-sober Murray still portrayed himself as a victim.

“He continues to be in denial about what he did. I would just hope that at some point he can come to terms with what he did, which is a planned, premeditated, brutal attack on an unarmed woman in his home,” Foley said. 

One of Murray’s attorneys, Michael Carty, said there are two sides to the case, adding that the defense team, which also included Adrian Galvan, didn’t agree with the prosecution’s theory.

Starting with the trial’s opening statements March 2, jurors watched a chilling video revealing interactions before and after the fatal shooting, including the victim’s haunting screams as the defendant attacked her with a broken cue stick.

Yap was supposed to call Austin the night she was murdered, Neal said.

“I think what hurts most for Austin is knowing that his mom isn’t there anymore. That it’s over. That she’s not coming back. … All for drugs or revenge or whatever. It was not worth death and taking my Austin’s mom away,” Neal said.

Before his mother’s murder, Austin was happy, easy-going, carefree and did well in school. 

“Now not a whole lot gives him joy any longer,” Neal said, “Now there is chaos at home. Not attending school. Not listening at home.”

Heather Maye, Neal’s sister and Austin’s aunt, read the statement for the teen, who sat in the audience.

“Austin wanted me to tell you he misses the daily talks with his mom, and most of all, just the times that he could visit her. Most of all, he wishes the defendant to be off the streets so he doesn’t have the opportunity to ever hurt anyone’s family ever again as much as he has hurt ours,” she read.

Neal also expressed appreciation for the District Attorney’s Office, its Victim’s Witness Unit and Lompoc police for their support as the case made its way through through the justice system.

“Now we can close this chapter of our life, and our family can heal, especially Austin, Rebecca’s son, and Austin’s father, who didn’t deserve any of this. The defendant has tried to ruin Austin’s life by murdering his mother, but with the love and support from his family and friends, he will thrive. 

“Tomorrow is the first day of our lives, and the defendant will no longer be part of it,” Neal added.

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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