Man and woman get life without parole for parking lot murder

EL CAJON, Calif. — A man and woman were sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2017 shooting death of a man in a botched holdup in the parking lot of a Burlington Coat Factory store in La Mesa, in which they made off with cash and three pairs of shoes taken from the victim.

Derrick Eli Henderson, 32, and Kathryn Luwana Williams, 26, were convicted in July of murder and robbery charges for the death of 30-year-old Travis Lewis, who was gunned down on July 20, 2017, outside the Burlington Coat Factory store at 7938 El Cajon Blvd.

Jurors deliberated for about two days before convicting Henderson and Williams of the killing, and finding true a special circumstance allegation of committing the killing in the commission of a robbery.

The defendants met up with Lewis under the guise of purchasing marijuana from him — a scheme orchestrated by Williams, who called the victim to arrange the meeting and brought Henderson along as muscle, according to Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha.

The prosecutor said that upon arrival, Henderson pressed a gun to Lewis’ neck and fired in broad daylight, then dumped the gun in a planter near the store.

Williams then took shoes the victim had just bought out of the trunk of his car and rifled through Lewis’ pockets and took cash as he lay bleeding in the parking lot, but left behind marijuana that he had in his vehicle, Trocha said.

In his closing argument, Trocha told the jury that Williams was “just as responsible as if she pulled the trigger herself.”

Co-defendant Tiesha Miller-Johnson, 34, pleaded guilty to robbery and is slated to be sentenced later this month. Prosecutors said she was the getaway driver.

Henderson’s attorney, Yahairah Aristy, denied that he was the shooter, while the prosecution claimed that Henderson’s DNA was found on the gun and that he told someone else that he “domed that dude” when talking about the robbery.

Aristy also disputed testimony from Williams that after the shooting, Henderson threatened to kill her if she didn’t take Lewis’ belongings or if she told anyone about what happened.

Williams’ attorney, Shervin Samimi, said his client was only there to buy marijuana, and alleged the prosecution was stretching with its claims that she crafted a scheme to rob Lewis.

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