JOSHUA TREE — The verdict is in; Rafael Ari Aikens was found guilty Thursday of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Christy McKissic and Renee Metcalf.

Jurors in the People versus Rafael Ari Aikens announced Thursday morning they had finished their deliberations, which took less than two hours, and were ready to read their verdict. The jury was made up of eight women and four men and all appeared to be Caucasian.

“We the jury find the defendant guilty of the offense of murder,” they wrote on the verdict form, which was read aloud in the courtroom.

They also found that the defendant used a firearm in both of the murders, which is a special enhancement and will result in additional time on his sentence.

With this verdict, the jury agreed that Aikens, 24, shot and killed Christy McKissic and her mother, Renee Metcalf, in their Twentynine Palms home on March 23, 2017. Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued that Aikens had traveled to their home late that evening and engaged in some form of sexual activity with McKissic before shooting her in the skull as he hovered on top of her.

The prosecution said Metcalf then ran into the room and was shot twice, once in the leg and once in the back. Both Metcalf and McKissic were shot in the head as the assailant left the room.

While no DNA evidence was found linking Aikens to the crime, the prosecution provided witness testimony from two Marines who served with Aikens and said he had told him something about the murders.

The district attorney also provided ballistics on Aikens’ .45 caliber Rock Island pistol that, a weapons expert said, was used to shoot both women.

The jury agreed this was enough evidence to prove that Aikens committed the murders beyond a reasonable doubt.

After hearing the verdict, judge Rodney Cortez thanked the jurors for their service and reminded them that the court could provide counseling for them if they needed it due to the brutal nature of the case.

“We’re all human beings, so there are difficulties that we bring upon you when we have the nature of the case that you just sat on,” he said. “I hope you recognize the important role that community members play in the criminal justice system.”

The jurors were excused from the courtroom and family members of McKissic, Metcalf and Aikens gathered outside in tears.

“I’m just glad that it’s over,” said Crystal Eli Kahi, who is aunt to McKissic’s daughter. “Christy was like a sister, Renee was a second mom to me.”

Across the hall from Crystal, Aikens’ mom, Artelias Aikens, could be seen hugging a close friend of McKissic’s.

“I feel for their family,” she said. “For their pain and their loss.”

Artelias Aikens said she personally asked the victims’ family to not be angry with her family for supporting Rafael . She said this was a difficult time for everyone involved and she still believes her son is innocent.

“Evidence showed that my son was not guilty,” she said.

Her mother, Effie Gant, also said she believes her grandson is innocent.

“The proof is in the pudding,” she said. “There was no DNA evidence.”

Aikens will return to the courthouse on Oct. 18 for his sentencing hearing. He is facing two counts of life in prison for these crimes.

(3) comments


"Some form of sexual activity "

Doesn't leave any DNA from the suspect ?

Morongo basin keystones stike again.

What pathetic police work.


Police probably didn't think to look for DNA unless it looked like a sex crime. But if he had been there regularly, you would expect his DNA to turn up. (Don't rush to blame the cops - they are intelligent and well versed in investigation techniques, especially at this level of crime.

Here, the problem(2) for deft. were (1) his phone was wiped (2) his gun was linked to the act (3) he lied to police initially and now tried to explain it away. Most defense lawyers never put their client on the stand. Problem here is without his testimony, it was pure prosecution evidence. But here, given the sketchy testimony of fellow soldiers, he probably should not have testified. Some of the jurors would clearly be bothered by DA witness testimony and in such a serious case (jurors are not told what the potential punishment could be - they might be thinking it was a DP case), that may be enough to hang the jury and make a deal before a second trial.


I was juror #10, center in the front row. At the beginning we were told dp was not going to be considered for punishment.

If you had been in the courtroom and paid attention, you would have seen the evidence as to why no DNA was found.

You also would have seen the evidence that put Aiken in the timeline coresponding to the guard gate video, and the ping map from Christie's phone along with all the other evidence.

Condom wrapper was found, that's why there was no DNA. They did swab her mouth and other parts of her body, no Aiken DNA was found.

4 jurors weren't sure as they missed the conclusive evidence shown in the guard gate video when the guard handed the ID back to the person in the Toyota you could see his forearm which matched perfectly with Aiken's booking photo, shade and shape, which when seen by the 4 undecided jurors convinced them as it put Aiken in the truck.

The cel ping map began at the murder house stopped for 5 minutes a couple blocks away presumably to dispose of evidence, continues north to 62 west, to Adobe north to the guard shack, then to outside of Aiken's barracks with the timestamps coresponding to the timestamps in the video.

The vote was unanimous Wed evening, and again Thursday morning. Even if the dp was involved, we all would have voted the same.


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