JOSHUA TREE — The verdict is in; Rafael Ari Aikens was found guilty Thursday, Aug. 22, 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.