Local

Split decision in Fresno murder trial

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A jury's split decision in a murder trial means one suspect will go to prison for life, while the other will be a free man much sooner.

Curtis Travis and Stephen Stowers were both charged with murder after a deadly hit-and-run crash while they escaped from a robbery. Travis cried the tears of a convicted killer. Stowers cried the tears of a man who may get a second chance. The jury's decision Monday sent these two men's lives in vastly different directions.

"We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Curtis Wayne Travis, guilty of violation of penal code 187(a), first degree felony murder," read the court clerk Diane Franco.

The guilty verdict against Travis contrasted an 11-1 vote that Stowers was not guilty. Jurors agreed both men committed a robbery at a Northwest Fresno apartment complex last January. After taking cash and computers, they also stole a pickup truck for their getaway. Just a couple blocks away in the pea soup fog, they ran a red light, crashed into Heliodoro Ruvalcaba's car and killed the 50-year-old grandfather.

"Everything just happened at the snap of a finger within minutes," said Ruvalcaba's niece, Sabrina Gray. "A person's life was taken tragically. I mean, it was just so cold and foggy that night and I just kept picturing my uncle out there in that car being cold and by himself, you know, while two people took off."

Witnesses saw two men run away from the crash, and DNA evidence placed Travis and Stowers in the wrecked pickup. Prosecutors say Travis was the driver and also orchestrated the robbery.

The victim's family also knows Travis had a long history of felonies dating back more than a decade -- which is why they're fine with him going down for murder, while Stowers was only convicted of robbery and auto theft.

"They're two totally different people, two totally different situations and I mean, I'm okay with it," said Gray. "I don't know about my family, but you know what? I'm okay with it because how many felonies does it take to get somebody off the street?"

This one will get Travis off the street for a life sentence. Prosecutors could still re-file murder charges against Stowers, but Ruvalcaba's family gave the split decision their blessing. Now, they're hoping to get back to the laughter they lost when he was killed.

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crimetracker, murder, court, fresno, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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