A Denver man who fatally shot a woman during a drug-fueled night inside an Indio hotel room was convicted of second-degree murder today.
Jurors deliberated for only a few hours before finding Aaron Drayer, 22, guilty in the Jan. 15, 2017, death of 32-year-old Liliana Yanez at the Royal Plaza Inn at 82347 Highway 111. Drayer is slated to be sentenced May 11.
Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante told the jury that Drayer, Yanez and several others were using drugs inside a room at the Royal Plaza Inn when Drayer became agitated with Yanez, who was speaking loudly on her cellphone and refused to hang up.
Drayer and a friend of his left the hotel at about 2 a.m., but the defendant went back to retrieve a ``book safe'' -- a hollowed-out dictionary in which he transported drugs.
Bustamante said that upon finding the book safe, Drayer believed someone had tampered with it and tried to steal from him. He then ``held everyone in the room at gunpoint'' to find out who tampered with the safe, but Yanez ``didn't take him seriously,'' remained on her phone and was unperturbed by Drayer brandishing a gun, the prosecutor said.
``Liliana Yanez simply did not show him the respect he felt he deserved,'' said Bustamante, who alleged that Yanez had been making Drayer paranoid and suspicious throughout the night when she wouldn't get off her phone.
Drayer then trained his gun on her, to which her last words were ``What are you going to'' prior to being shot once in the chest. She died at the scene.
Drayer left in an SUV with Colorado plates, which belonged to a family friend. San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies caught up with the SUV owner, who said she lent Drayer the vehicle several days earlier and that he had the SUV on the night of Jan. 14.
Drayer, who witnesses said relocated to the Morongo Basin area about three months before the shooting, was found later that day hiding inside a bathroom in the woman's Joshua Tree home and was arrested after trying to flee through a window.
Drayer's attorney, James Silva, alleged that Drayer shot Yanez in self-defense after she called people to come to the hotel and possibly kill Drayer and his friend, then tried to attack him. Silva said Yanez was being ``belligerent'' and that contrary to the prosecution's claims, she was the one accusing Drayer of disrespect, not the other way around.
Silva said Drayer brought a gun because he didn't feel comfortable with some of the people there, but the weapon was strictly for protection. ``He had no motive at that time to kill anybody. He was there to have fun,'' Silva said.
The attorney said that after hearing Yanez threatening to have people kill him, Drayer brandished the gun. As one of Yanez's cohorts snuck up behind him, Yanez lunged across a bed at him, causing him to shoot her, Silva said.
The locked ``book safe'' was found by officers inside the hotel room, Bustamante said. Substances consistent with methamphetamine and cocaine were found inside the book safe, along with boxes of ammunition. More ammunition and drugs were found inside the SUV.
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