By Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — A Marine was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for the slaying of a fellow Marine after a dispute over stolen drug money.
Alvin Reed Lovely, 24, of Texas, and another Marine, Christian William Carney, 25, of New York, were convicted of killing Stephen Serrano, 20, on May 13, 2008. Carney was sentenced to 28 years in prison in March.
Lovely pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and making criminal threats with a sentencing enhancement for using a firearm.
Conflict between the men began while they were stationed at Camp Pendleton, said officials with the Orange County district attorney’s office.
Carney was a drug dealer who sold cocaine and Ecstasy, and Serrano was one of his customers, prosecutors said. Carney drove to Lovely’s home in Texas on May 9, 2008, to give him a ride back to the base.
While he was gone, Serrano and another Marine, a friend of Carney’s named Chad Hatch, broke into Carney’s room and stole his drug money. They took about $120, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh, who prosecuted the case.
When Carney returned to the base, a witness told him Hatch had broken into his room, prosecutors said.
On May 13, prosecutors said, Carney and Lovely drove Hatch to a remote area in San Clemente, Calif. They pointed a gun to his head and threatened to kill him if he did not reveal who else had joined him in the break-in. Hatch confessed it was Serrano.
Prosecutors said Carney and Lovely then lured Serrano away from the base and drove him to a secluded area in San Clemente. They shot him once in the face and three times in the back. Baytieh said he believes that Carney pulled the trigger, but the jury decided there was not enough evidence to determine who actually murdered Serrano.
Carney returned to the base and told Hatch not to discuss the matter with anyone, prosecutors said.
Serrano’s body was discovered by a jogger on May 15, 2008. He left behind a wife and five children, four of them stepchildren.
His mother read a statement during the sentencing Friday: “He was a wonderful son. He had a great sense of humor. … He joined the Marines in March 2007 because he wanted to take care of his family.”
Baytieh said the case showed that drug crimes are not victimless crimes and that even military bases are not free of them.
“People think our armed forces are immune to the problems of the outside world,” he said. “But even there, there are gang activities and drug activities like everywhere else.”