Crime

Defendant apologizes to family of handyman he murdered near Modesto Junior College

A defendant in court this week apologized to the family of a handyman he shot to death near Modesto Junior College five years ago as he admitted to the crime, according to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

Joshua Alexander Stewart on Monday pleaded guilty to murder and attempted robbery in the death of 51-year-old Kirk Lund, prosecutors announced in a news release Wednesday. His conviction includes an enhancement for using a gun in the crime.

His guilty plea means Stewart avoids a trial that was scheduled to start next week. A charge of being a felon in possession of a gun was dropped, according to court records.

Stewart, 29, of Modesto will be sentenced to 31 years to life in prison at a hearing next month. Deputy District Attorney Blythe Harris prosecuted the case against Stewart.

The deadly shooting was reported to police about 11:15 a.m. April 3, 2014, in the 1300 block of Leonard Avenue, near the MJC east campus and Tully Road.

Modesto police officers found Lund on the street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died.

Witnesses gave the officers a description of a man they spotted leaving the shooting scene on a bicycle. Shortly after, police found the suspect, later identified as Stewart.

Police officials have said Stewart ran from the officers, and the short chase ended on Tully Road, just south of Coldwell Avenue and across from the MJC football field.

As Stewart tried to escape, prosecutors say, he threw a gun on top of nearby Coldwell Market. Authorities later analyzed the gun and determined the weapon matched shell casings found at the shooting scene, according to prosecutors.

Police shut down the area, while investigators recovered the gun and took Stewart into custody.

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Modesto Police detain a suspect in a shooting that occured on Leonard Avenue near Tully Road Thursday, April 3, 2014. Officers arriving on scene found the victim in the roadway, said police spokeswoman Heather Graves. aalfaro@modbee.com

Lund worked as a handyman for a real estate company that owns an apartment complex in the area. Stewart lived in a different complex a couple of addresses down the street.

Prosecutors said Lund was working when Stewart tried to rob him and shot the handyman.

Some of those who knew Lund created a makeshift memorial at the shooting scene for the handyman not long after the shooting.

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A memorial for Kirk Lund, 51, who was killed in a shooting on Leonard Ave. in Modesto on Thursday, April 3, 2014. dnoda@modbee.com

As Stewart pleaded guilty to murder, the defendant apologized to Lund’s family in the courtroom and “blamed the crime on his drug use and negative peer associations,” according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Stewart, who remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, was scheduled to return to court Oct. 29. At that hearing, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff will formally sentence Stewart.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.
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