A spa man was acquitted on Monday of causing the death of his baby daughter in a high-speed crash in the south end of Palm Desert.
A Riverside jury deliberated nearly three days in the trial of Marcus Novell Green, 58, of Thermal before returning with verdicts of not guilty for second-degree murder and manslaughter for the June 27, 2016, deaths of 5 month-old green Armani.
The jury, however, found Green guilty of one misdemeanor count of child abuse.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst immediately sentenced the defendant to one year in prison for the conviction, but with credit for time behind bars awaiting trial, the sentence was overturned and the accused was released from custody at Robert Presley Prison in Riverside. .
His ex-girlfriend, Kristen Lauer, 29, of Rancho Mirage, pleaded guilty in 2019 to second-degree murder and child cruelty and was sentenced by Judge Burke Strunsky to life probation.
Strunsky justified the sentence by pointing out the physical impairments, including a brain injury, that Lauer suffered from the wreckage. He downplayed her role in it, describing it as a “negligent criminal act”, and not deliberate.
Armani was sitting on her mother’s lap, unrestrained in a car seat, when the accident happened on a stretch of Highway 74 that is narrow and cuts through hills.
Prosecutors say Green was likely driving up to 60 mph on a segment of the hallway where the speed limit is 30 mph due to steering hazards.
The accused was driving a modified 2015 Porsche sports coupe and lost control causing the vehicle to skid towards his shoulder and crash through a guardrail, after which he plunged down a 200ft embankment , prosecutors said.
Armani was thrown 90 feet from the car when it rolled over, sustaining catastrophic injuries. The baby was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics less than an hour later.
According to court records, Green has previous convictions for assault, robbery and robbery with a firearm dating back to the early 1990s.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Thermalman Acquitted of Daughter’s Murder in Highway 74 Crash