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VICTORVILLE • A Hesperia man who beat an Iraq war veteran to death with a ball-peen hammer was convicted of first-degree murder after jurors deliberated less than 30 minutes.

The jurors found Johnny Acosta, 46, guilty of the murder of cable worker Trevor John Neiman, shortly after attorneys finished their closing arguments late Wednesday. They also found the allegation of personal use of a deadly weapon to be true.

The jury came back Thursday morning to find his allegations of having two priors strikes and two serious felony convictions to be true, which will increase his punishment.

The defendant asked to be sentenced immediately on Thursday, but Deputy District Attorney Robert Brown said Neiman’s family was not prepared to make impact statements.

Judge John Tomberlin ordered Acosta to return to court Tuesday for sentencing, where he’s expected to face up to 81 years to life in prison.

“I have such peace in my mind right now,” Lorale Neiman, Trevor Neiman’s mother, said Thursday. “It’s crazy how I feel.”

On Nov. 9, 2009, Trevor Neiman was installing a cable system at Acosta’s niece’s house in Victorville when Acosta reportedly approached the victim from behind and, without provocation, started bashing Neiman in the head with a hammer. Neiman, a 25-year-old former Marine who served three tours in Iraq, died from the head wounds.

Acosta testified in the trial he was taking methamphetamine that day and heard voices telling him to kill somebody.

“I feel no remorse (from Acosta) and I want to see his face when (victim impact) letters are read to him,” Lorale Neiman, the victim’s mother, said. “I hope I can. I’m going to stand right in front of him.”

Acosta pleaded guilty in 1993 to voluntary manslaughter and attempted rape of an Upland woman. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison but was released in half the time in 2004.

“He’s a type of person that should never be walking free,” Brown said. “He’s killed more than one person. He should never have the opportunity to do that kind of thing again.”

“A lot of people probably wonder why he’s not facing death penalty,” he said. “He doesn’t qualify under the law.”

A defendant’s conduct has to meet one or more of about 20 special circumstances specified in the penal code for prosecutors to pursue death penalty. One of the circumstances is having a previous murder conviction, but Acosta didn’t qualify because he had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, Brown said.

Lorale Neiman said an image of her son dying still wakes her up every night.

“(The conviction) gave me satisfaction of justice, and yes the system can work,” she said. “They took my son away, but they’ll never take the impact or the legacy he has left behind. I meet people almost every day who knew Trevor and talk to me.”

http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/degree-26705-first-killer.html

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