MARTINEZ -- A 46-year-old Antioch man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday for the daylight ambush murder of an enemy from Oakland in an Antioch strip mall in 2009.
Willie Morris Clay II testified that he spontaneously gunned down 46-year-old Gary Lloyd Townsend on April 27, 2009, upon spotting him by the 7-Eleven at Buchanan Road and Delta Fair Boulevard. He said he snapped upon seeing his longtime tormentor, who came up beside him on the rough streets of Oakland, because he believed that Townsend had his son and namesake killed in 2006 and was going to kill him next.
Crying in court Friday, Clay apologized to his family and the community but stood by his justification of the killing that led jurors to convict him in June of first-degree murder with use of a firearm and a special circumstance of lying in wait.
"I'm not a murderer," Clay said.
Prosecutors say Clay manufactured the story about being afraid of Townsend, with whom he served in the same gang and had served federal time for a drug conspiracy.
They say Clay stalked Townsend as the victim accompanied his pregnant girlfriend and her small children to a prenatal clinic. Once Townsend got on his motorcycle to drive off, Clay ran up from behind, shot him multiple times in the head and neck, and took off in a car waiting with its engine running.
Clay was represented by famed civil rights attorney Tony Serra, who continued to characterize Townsend on Friday as a murdering monster who had received his karmic justice.
Townsend's sister on Friday told the court that is not the man whom she and her family knew and loved. She described Townsend as a sensitive, fun-loving father and uncle who was a mentor and role model in their family.
"We are so devastated," Lenda Townsend-Williams said. "We don't know the person presented in this courtroom."
Judge John Kennedy said Clay may have believed that Townsend was after him, but there was also evidence he was motivated to kill out of jealousy and for financial reasons.
"You don't have the right to take his life no matter how bad you think he is, or how dangerous you think he is," the judge told Clay.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.