Trial proceedings start for felon accused of killing San Jacinto woman

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MURRIETA (CNS) – Pretrial motions were heard today ahead of jury selection in the trial of an ex-con accused of fatally shooting a San Jacinto woman and throwing her out of a moving car.
Traevon Denae Stewart, 42, is charged with first-degree murder for the 2017 slaying of 40-year-old Latoya Calhoun.
Along with the murder count, Stewart is charged with a special circumstance allegation of killing in the course of a robbery, as well as two counts of making criminal threats and one count of felony evading. He’s being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
The defendant’s case was transferred from the Banning Justice Center to the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, where Riverside County Superior Court Kelly Hanson heard pretrial motions related to scheduling, proposed witnesses and other matters.
Hanson is expected to summon prospective jurors for screening as to their availability and qualifications Tuesday or Wednesday. Testimony is likely to begin next week.
Stewart is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Stewart’s co-defendant, 65-year-old Michael Wayne Bird of Banning, pleaded guilty in November 2017 to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to jail and probation.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Himmelberg, Calhoun was shot multiple times and dumped from a moving vehicle in the 2600 block of Esplanade Avenue, near Kirby Street, in San Jacinto on the morning of April 29, 2017.
Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and pronounced the woman dead at the scene.
Detectives developed leads pointing to Stewart as the alleged shooter, and he was arrested in Banning two days later. Bird was also taken into custody at that time.
A possible motive for the attack was not disclosed, though investigators acknowledged that the defendant and victim were acquainted.
According to court records, Stewart has prior convictions for assault with a firearm and possession of drugs for sale.