One of three people accused in the murder of Kimberly Harvill whose body was found near Gorman last year pleaded no contest to the charges against her including three counts of kidnapping.
What was anticipated to be a routine court appearance in a long-standing trial, turned out to be a shock for prosecutors when the only woman charged in the case entered a plea.
Britany Sue Humphrey, 22, of Fresno, pleaded to no contest to the felony criminal charges against her.
“She pleaded open to the court today over the people’s objection,” Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office told The Signal Tuesday.
“She pleaded no contest to all of the charges and allegations, three counts of kidnapping,” he said.
Humphrey is now scheduled to sentenced Sept. 7.
Tuesday’s scheduled appearance was expected to be one of many pre-trial hearings held on the way to an actual trial.
Alex Richard Valdez, a 29-year-old warehouse worker who lives in Firebaugh west of Fresno, appeared late last month in San Fernando Superior Court where he was charged with murder.
Valdez also appeared in court Tuesday for the first day of his preliminary hearing. That hearing is expected to continue Wednesday.
During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors present evidence after which the defense can respond. The judge then decides if the case should go to trial.
A third suspect in the Harvill murder, Joshua Aaron Robertson, 27, is expected to appear in court on Aug. 8.
He and Humphrey were arrested in October on suspicion of murdering Harvill and of then kidnapping Harvill’s three children.
All three suspects stand accused in the shooting death of Kimberly Harvill.
Valdez, Robertson, Humphrey and Harvill were each involved in a shooting at a Fresno hotel that happened Aug. 12, 2016, Det. Scott Matlock, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Homicide Bureau told The Signal at the time of Valdez’s arrest.
Harvill’s body was found lying in the brush by a motorist on Aug. 14 along Gorman Post Road, north of California State Route 138, in Lebec, near the Kern County line.
“Everybody was involved, including the victim and the two people previously arrested, in a shooting in Fresno,” Matlock said in March, noting the shooting was not a fatal shooting.
“The shooting stemmed from a dispute in Fresno at a hotel,” he said.
The criminal complaint initially filed against Humphrey and Robertson charges them with the “willful, deliberate and premeditated Murder” of Kimberly Harvill, mother of the three children.
That complaint was amended in April, charging Humphrey with kidnapping, not murder.
The complaint also alleges Robertson shot and killed Harvill and that he further broke the law being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Harvill’s children – 5-year-old daughter Rylee Watkins; 3 year-old son Brayden Watkins, and 2-year-old Joslynn Watkins – were found unharmed in New Mexico in August.
Humphrey and Robertson were arrested a short time later.
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