MARTINEZ CA April 5 2012 – A Contra Costa jury has convicted a 27-year-old Concord man of first-degree murder for shooting his girlfriend’s stepfather during a fight about rent.
The jury deliberated about three hours before returning a guilty verdict Monday against Claude Lee Mitchell in the April 1, 2010, killing of 48-year-old security guard Carlton Ross, who was shot five times.
Mitchell, his then-girlfriend — who was 9 months pregnant — and their 19-month-old son had been living with Ross and his wife, the mother of Mitchell’s girlfriend. When Mitchell failed to pay his share of the rent, Ross criticized Mitchell for failing to support his family and told him they would have to move out of the Concord apartment.
As the fight between the two men moved into the stairwell of their apartment building, three 11-year-old boys saw Mitchell shoot Ross twice in the back and abdomen, deputy district attorney Dana Filkowski said, and Ross’ wife saw Mitchell shoot her husband three more times in the face and head.
“Mrs. Ross saw her husband shot while he was lying on his back on the stairs by the man she let call her Mama,” Filkowski said. “It was beyond tragic.”
Mitchell testified at the trial that he shot Ross in self-defense, which Filkowski argued was disproved by the physical evidence.
Mitchell said he had purchased the gun on the streets of Richmond after he was a victim of a robbery.
“We were very disappointed that the jury found Mr Mitchell guilty of murder as opposed to manslaughter,” said Mitchell’s attorney, deputy public defender Karen Moghtader. “There was overwhelming evidence that Mr. Ross was killed during a very heated argument with Mr. Mitchell and that Mr. Mitchell was reacting to a very volatile situation. This was a tragedy for everyone involved.”
Mitchell’s girlfriend had her baby two weeks after the killing. She broke up with him after his arrest.
Mitchell faces 50 years to life in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for June 1.