News

'Sunny Day' killer gets life without parole

Gang member Jerry Coneal III of Menlo Park was convicted of shooting Christopher Baker

Gang member and convicted murderer Jerry Coneal III expressed his lack of remorse for the 2012 slaying of a rival gang member with a wink at the mother of his victim during his sentencing on Thursday in San Mateo County Superior Court, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

Coneal, of Menlo Park, received his life prison sentence on his 23rd birthday. He will not gain parole. He was found guilty of the shooting death of Christopher Baker, 21, a rival gang member who was killed while attending a memorial in East Palo Alto for someone prosecutors believed was associated with gangs.

Coneal was arrested as part of a 2014 multiple-agency sweep nicknamed "Operation Sunny Day." The expression was the code allegedly used to signify when a murder was successfully carried out, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Law enforcement indicted 16 gang members in East Palo Alto who they believed were responsible for five shootings and killings and other crimes. The violence started in September 2012 and continued through December 2013. All of the defendants who have thus far been tried have received lengthy sentences, Wagstaffe said.

Police found Baker suffering from multiple gunshot wounds on Terra Villa Avenue in East Palo Alto on Oct. 5, 2012. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Coneal and another defendant, Miguel Angel Rivera Jr. of Menlo Park, were charged with the crime.

A jury convicted Coneal on Aug. 31 after a 29-day trial and three days of deliberations of first-degree murder and two enhancements: murder while lying in wait and murder for gang purposes. Jurors also found him guilty of firearm-use and gang enhancements, which added to his sentence.

Before sentencing, Coneal's attorney argued that a life without parole sentence would violate the U.S. Constitution's Eighth and 14th Amendments against cruel and unusual punishment and depriving persons of life, liberty, or property, without due process or equal protection of the law. Judge Lisa A. Novak disagreed. She sentenced Coneal to life in prison without parole for the murder, plus 25 years to life to be served consecutively for use of a firearm in the slaying, Guidotti said.

Coneal will receive 1,291 days credit for time served and he must pay a $10,000 to a restitution fund, plus pay additional restitution in an amount to be determined by the court.

Baker's mother, Keisha Knowles, made a statement to the court at the sentencing hearing. At the proceeding's conclusion, she informed the court that Coneal had winked at her, Guidotti said.

In July, co-defendant Rivera, 27, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in Baker's death. He was sentenced on July 28 to 35 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 35 years. He did not receive credit for time served; he is currently serving a 14-year and four months sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm. His sentences will run consecutively, totaling a minimum of 49 years and four months, prosecutors said.

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Rice
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 29, 2017 at 10:01 am

Angers me that we taxpayers will be providing free housing, meals, medical and everything else (for the next 50+ years) for a known gang member who committed a cold blooded 1st degree murder.


13 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2017 at 10:07 am

Happy Birthday!


6 people like this
Posted by Restitution?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2017 at 2:07 pm

How is he going to pay restitution from prison?


6 people like this
Posted by Cecelia
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Restitution- California inmates make around 93 cents per hour depending on the job. They are not required to work in California, unlike some states like Arizona who require all able body inmates to work. I'm sure this 23 year old gang member has nothing of value and he probably won't work if he knows most of his earnings will go to restitution. By the way it costs almost $80k per year to house a inmate in California.


4 people like this
Posted by Idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2017 at 2:07 am

If American prisons were like North Korea’s, the prison population would likely be lower. We’re too nice to our prisoners.

23 years old. His parents failed.


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