--2 Leyba Murder Trial Day 3: Reno Testifies (Updated With Video)
Sept. 23, 2017

Leyba Murder Trial Day 3: Reno Testifies (Updated With Video)

April 26, 2010, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein
For background on the case, read this SFR cover story, and this follow-up. For previous days' trial coverage, click here.

Update April 27: There's video of this testimony after the cut.

Marino Leyba, Jr, took the stand today and, in his own words, said he feared for his life when he shot and killed his girlfriend and her father last year.

"I remember going to the house after talking to Sarah [Lovato, the victim] on the phone. I knocked on the little window that was there. The next thing I remember is Julie [Lovato, Sarah's sister] coming down the stairs. Her dad [Bennie Lovato, Sr, the other victim] was in the living room too...

He gets up kind of fast. I see something in his right hand. It's black. I figured it was a gun. So I pulled my mace out...

Reno went on:
I sprayed the mace in that direction. From there I think Sarah runs across the mace while it's been sprayed. I got some in my eyes...

I left off what I believed to be one or two shots because I was afraid for my life. From there, Sarah went into the kitchen... I didn't think I hit them. I was just afraid.

I wanted to go back and see if they were OK. But the police coming to my parents' house, seeing the way they treated my dad--sometimes they don't know the situation. I was afraid.

I got in the car. Eventually I got to some place, I guess it was downtown. And from there, I just got in my car and went toward the hills and the mountains, walking; I didn't know where I was going to.

It was shocking... I didn't expect anything like that to happen.

The young man's meek demeanor and difficulty finding words on the stand was in stark contrast to the smooth-talking aspiring rapper portrayed by prosecutors and, in interviews with SFR, some of Reno's associaties.

Under cross-examination, Reno called evidence about his past abuse of Sarah--including eyewitness testimony by Julie, and Sarah's own diary entries--a "fabrication."

Prosecutors also alleged that Reno  is already the father of a two-year-old, with a previous girlfriend, to which Reno professed ignorance.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell began his case today by putting the accused's mother, Loretta Leyba, on the witness stand.

Loretta's testimony was designed to support Mitchell's depiction of Marino Leyba, Jr, better known as Reno, as a mentally incapacitated mama's boy. She spoke of her son's difficulty with classwork and fondness for cartoons; even as an 18-year-old, she testified under cross-examination, Reno enjoyed watching Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh.


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