Jury convicts Menlo Park man of first-degree murder for fatally shooting taxi driver


Jurors Tuesday convicted a Menlo Park man of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of a taxi driver in Redwood City early on a Saturday morning in 2003.

Lousa Mataele, 37, of Menlo Park, sat quietly at the defense table as the verdict was read in San Mateo County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The cab driver, 21-year-old Davinder Singh, was shot to death on Sept. 13, 2003.

Mr. Mataele was initially found incompetent to stand trial in 2005 and was placed at Napa State Hospital. But in April 2008, the California Department of Mental Health found that his competency had been restored and a judge reinstated criminal proceedings.

In addition to murder, Mr. Mataele was found guilty of fatally shooting Mr. Singh in the commission of a robbery and of attempting to rob Mr. Singh before he killed him.

Jurors also convicted him of attempted murder for shooting another man in the taxi, Jaime Torres, but found him not guilty of attempting to rob Mr. Torres.

Mr. Singh's uncle, Gurdev Singh, said outside the courtroom that he was pleased with the verdict because it will help keep Mr. Mataele from killing again, and that he still feels the loss of his nephew.

"Our pain is still here," Gurdev Singh said.

Kaval Singh, a close friend of the victim, said he believes justice was served and that he will always miss his friend.

He called Davinder Singh "a very friendly guy," which Gurdev Singh echoed by adding that he would give homeless people free rides in his taxi among other good deeds.

Defense attorney Gerritt Rutgers said he is disappointed with the verdict and doesn't understand how Mr. Mataele could be convicted of attempted murder when he said the prosecution never alleged that Mr. Mataele had intended to kill Mr. Torres.

The murder occurred shortly after 3 a.m. on Sept. 13, 2003. The previous night, Mr. Mataele and Mr. Torres, 23, had been drinking together at a Redwood City bar, according to prosecutor Joe Cannon.

After leaving the bar, Mr. Torres and Mr. Mataele went to the home of a friend of Mr. Torres where they spent the next hour. The friend eventually called a taxi for the pair. The taxi that responded was Singh's.

Mr. Torres told Mr. Singh to take him to another bar near his home. As Mr. Singh made a right turn from El Camino Real onto Oak Avenue, Mr. Mataele pulled a gun out of his backpack, pointed it at Mr. Singh and told him to put his hands in the air, Mr. Cannon said.

One shot was fired -- a warning shot, according to Mr. Cannon -- and Mr. Singh reached back and grabbed the barrel of the gun. That's when Mr. Mataele fired two shots into the back of Mr. Singh's head, killing him, Mr. Cannon said.

The taxi, which was still moving, crashed into a parked car.

Mr. Cannon said Mr. Mataele then turned the gun on Mr. Torres and demanded his cell phone and gold teeth. As Mr. Torres tried to escape, Mr. Mataele fired at him, grazing him with a bullet, Mr. Cannon said.

Mr. Mataele then walked from the taxi to a nearby bus stop, where police found him and arrested him 15 minutes later. He was in possession of the gun prosecutors say was used to shoot Mr. Singh.

Mr. Mataele has been in custody without bail. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced June 4.

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Like this comment
Posted by Ranch Gal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I find it sad that no one is commenting on this story. Are there no residents who wish to comment? Plenty of comments on other stories but when a minority is involved, the minority community is not willing to "get involved" in commentary? Sad, very sad indeed.

Like this comment
Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 15, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Ranch Gal, may I be the first to point out that you also are not commenting on the story but rather taking advantage of an opportunity to criticize the rest of us.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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