Lacy Marie Ferguson was described as a delicate, kind-hearted and trusting 25-year-old mother who overcame serious health concerns in her early childhood and was looking forward to spending life with her daughter.
That ended on Aug. 24, 2003, when shots were fired at a group of people standing outside a west Modesto convenience store. Ferguson was not the intended target; stray gunfire killed her and injured two others.
Ferguson’s daughter, Haleigh, was 3 years old when her mother was killed. On Wednesday morning, the now-teenage girl sat at a table only a few feet away from the man convicted in her mother’s death and spoke about her loss.
“I don’t have memories of my mother... I don’t know what she sounds like,” Haleigh said.
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As she spoke to the judge, Haleigh clucthed a stuffed Teddy bear named “Paddington,” a source of comfort she’s held onto since the days after her mother’s death.
I don’t have memories of my mother... I don’t know what she sounds like.
Haleigh, Lacy Marie Ferguson’s daughter,
A jury last month found David Aguilar, 46, guilty of murder in Ferguson’s death. Aguilar also was convicted of three counts of shooting at an occupied building or vehicle and two counts of attempted murder for the two other people hit by gunfire.
The deadly shooting occurred in the parking lot of the Quik Stop store and gas station on Paradise and Carpenter roads. Ferguson’s boyfriend, John Ritchie, was standing near her outside a gas station when they were both struck by gunfire. Ferguson was hit in the head and died hours later at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
Adrian Vega, who also was hit by gunfire, was in a nearby parked car, which authorities say was the intended target.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley scheduled Aguilar to return to court Oct. 31 for his sentencing. Percy Martinez, Aguilar’s attorney, said it’s not likely the defense will be ready to proceed with sentencing next month. Aguilar faces a maximum sentence of 61 years to life in prison. He is not eligible for a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Martinez told the judge that they are still awaiting for copies of the trial transcript, which should be ready by the end of this week. He said they need the transcript to prepare a motion for a new trial. The defendant must be allowed to seek a new trial before he can be sentenced.
Ferguson’s family and friends were allowed to speak Wednesday about the impact of the young mother’s violent death. They said they still don’t understand why it happened: was it for drugs or revenge? But they said in court that their lives changed when Aguilar fired his gun.
Haleigh said what memories she had of her mother have faded in the past 14 years. She told the judge the ability to share special moments with her mother were “stolen from me, when he pulled the trigger.”
Why would you shoot a gun and blow my daughter’s brains out?
Boni Driskill, Ferguson’s mother
Boni Driskill, Ferguson’s mother, was more confrontational with the defendant in court. She sat on the witness stand looking at Aguilar, telling him, “This is Lacy. Do you remember her?” Aguilar answered “I don’t.”
Driskill said in Aguilar intimidated witnesses in the several years after the shooting, when investigators were still seeking information to help them identify a suspect. She plainly asked Aguilar, “Why would you shoot a gun and blow my daughter’s brains out?”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira argued at trial that Aguilar was in a car with Pete Garcia that night before both men took turns firing a gun in the direction of the store. Garcia, 29, was killed by Timothy Carrillo in 2008, before he could be charged in Ferguson’s death.
Aguilar was found by authorities in Mexico and was held in prison there since 2014 as he fought extradition. He was brought back to Stanislaus County in May.
Aguilar’s family has maintained his innocence, telling the prosecution team that they punished the wrong man. On Wednesday, as they were ushered out of the courthouse by bailiffs, they again said Aguilar was not involved in the deadly shooting.
Driskill said her daughter suffered from Turner syndrome, a genetic condition associated with a range of health problems including adverse heart conditions. She said doctors first predicted her daughter would die by the time she was 18 months old. Then they said she wouldn’t live beyond puberty.
The doctors even said Ferguson would never be able to give birth to a child. She proved them wrong, Driskill said.
She explained her daughter’s unsolved murder produced an excruciating pain for the past 14 years. The murder trial forced her to relive that agony.
“Her death changed me, it took me with her,” Driskill told the judge.
Driskill in court had one last thing to say to Aguilar. She said “As far as I’m concerned, I feel you can burn in hell.”