The hours preceding the death of 25-year-old Courtney Arvizu were marked with violence, anger, alcohol and threats, according to witnesses testifying Friday at the murder trial of her husband.
Robert Arvizu, 50, appeared Friday in San Fernando Superior Court, accused of murdering his newlywed bride on May 23, 2015.
Many of the more than half a dozen witnesses called to the stand identified Arvizu in court as the man wearing a black suit jacket, white shirt and blue tie.
Arvizu, bald and sporting many facial, neck, head, knuckle and hand tattoos, stood with his lawyer each time jurors entered the courtroom, a narrow white goatee tied tightly in a pencil-long braid, quietly with his hands folded in front of him.
Deputy District Attorney Julie Kramer asked each of her witnesses about their interaction with Arvizu and Courtney on May 23, 2015.
The body of Courtney Arvizu, was found inside her Newhall apartment on 9th Street between Newhall Avenue and Chestnut Street, shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Sunday May 24, 2015.
Marie Flores, through a Spanish interpreter, told the court she lived in the apartment below the Arvizu’s apartment in May 2015.
“Between 10 and 10:30 p.m. I heard a very loud noise,” she said, referring to the night of May 23, 2015. “It was the noise of something that fell on the floor.”
She added the sound was “very quick” and that no other sounds were heard that night.
Arvizu’s lawyer, C. Edward Mack, asked Flores on cross-examination how she could be sure of the time.
Flores said she goes to bed at 10:30 each night because she has to get up for work the next day.
It was the events leading up to 10 p.m. on May 23, 2015, however, that Kramer focused on.
Jurors learned that Rob and Courtney Arvizu attended a house party earlier that evening.
Maylin Shapiro, crying before she gave her name under oath, told the court she was preparing food in a kitchen for a backyard party on May 23 when the couple arrived.
“They were happy,” she said. “They looked very happy.”
Kramer then asked Shapiro: “He wasn’t so happy any more at some point, can you tell us about it?”
Amid sobbing, Shapiro said she heard “Rob” yelling accusations directed at Courtney. At one point, she was between the two, she said.
“I told him ‘Calm down, you’re embarrassing yourself’ but then he yelled at her and at me,” Shapiro said.
“He (Avizu) was leaning over my husband yelling (at Courtney). ‘F— you. You f—ing wh—,” she said.
At one point, Shapiro’s husband escorted Arvizu from the party to the front of the house in an effort to diffuse the confrontation, she said.
At the same time, she said, she was telling Courtney – whom she described as also angry and also swearing – to also calm down. “I said ‘Courtney, ‘shut up, stop it.’”
Shortly after Shapiro’s husband left the party with Arvizu, Courtney told party guests, Shapiro said, that she wanted to go home.
“I told her not to leave,” Shapiro said, noting at least one other guest offered to drive Courtney home and at least one offered to call a cab.
Shapiro said Courtney left the party abruptly.
When Shapiro’s husband returned to the party without Arvizu; Shapiro returned bruised and bloody.
Laurie Phelps, a guest at the party, who works as a registered nurse, told jurors that when she saw Shapiro’s husband she noticed that his nose had been broken.
Witness Mico Maggi, who told court he had been a friend of Courtney’s for two or three years, said he was driving through Newhall with his girlfriend on the night of May 23, 2015 at about 7:30 p.m..
“I saw Rob (Arvizu) walking on the other side of the street. I turned at the gas station and I picked him up because I thought he needed a ride. I was taking him to his house.
“He said he had gotten into a fight. There was blood on the side of his face,” Maggi said.
“He said he (Arvizu) and Courtney had gotten into an argument after he found this guy was flirting with her,” he said.
During the car ride, Arvizu began talking to Maggi’s girlfriend, he said.
“He (Arvizu) said she better treat me good or I’ll kill you. He was saying ‘You better threat him good’ meaning me. It was really irritating and off-putting. I was trying to get him out of the car.
“He was calling (Courtney) her (a wh—) saying she was having sex with guys at work, telling me I didn’t know her,” Maggi said, referring to Courtney and noting he dropped Arvizu off at Arvizu’s residence at 9:30 p.m. May 23, 2015.
Jurors also heard from a woman who dated Robert Arvizu for 18 months.
Erika S. told the court that their relationship became marred with physical violence.
“There was choking,” she said, later explaining under cross-examination that Arvizu “grabbed me around the neck and choked me.”
“There was grabbing my head and hitting it against hard surfaces, chasing me, grabbing me,” she said.
Citing one particular incident, Erika said she was leaving work with a coworker one night in November 2005 when Arvizu confronted them.
“I was walking out with a male who worked there and he (Arvizu) accused me of being unfaithful,” she said.
The confrontation prompted a response by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
“He would call me in the night and if I was tired and breathing heavy he was accuse me of having sex,” she said.
Kramer asked her: “Were you ever unfaithful?”
Erika said: “I was never unfaithful.”
There will be point in the trial when Arvizu’s lawyer is expected to present his case in his client’s defense.
Friday, however, was the first full day of testimony presented as part of the prosecution’s case.
The trial is expected to continue next week.
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