shooting_nighttime.jpgA San Francisco couple accused of fatally shooting a Los Angeles-area man who was allegedly pimping their teenage daughter returned to court today for a hearing that was packed with their family members and friends.

Lupe Mercado, 37, and Barry Gilton, 38, have been charged with the murder of Calvin Sneed, 22, of Compton, who was fatally shot shortly after 2 a.m. on June 4. The pair did not enter a plea at this morning’s hearing.

Sneed was shot in the head while he was driving near Meade and Le Conte avenues in San Francisco’s Bayview District. He crashed into a parked car and died at a hospital later that morning.

Prosecutors say the longtime couple, who are not married but have four children, shot Sneed after learning that their 17-year-old daughter had become a sex worker in the Los Angeles area and that Sneed was her pimp.

The attorneys for Mercado and Gilton today denied that they were guilty of shooting Sneed.

“Besides this perceived motive, there’s really no direct evidence,” Eric Safire, Gilton’s attorney, said outside of court.

The attorneys argued that Sneed’s ties to a Los Angeles-area gang were enough of a motive for someone else to have shot him.

“There are many people who had a motive to do harm to him,” said Tony Tamburello, Mercado’s attorney. “We feel our clients are being unfairly targeted.”

According to the criminal complaint against the couple, they allegedly traveled to Southern California and, on May 27, tracked Sneed down to a street in North Hollywood where Gilton fired a 9mm handgun at him, striking him. He survived that shooting.

Sneed then traveled up to San Francisco to get the pair’s daughter, who had returned to the city, and on June 4 the couple found him again, prosecutors said.

Gilton then allegedly fired again at Sneed, fatally wounding him, according to the criminal complaint.

Gilton and Mercado were arrested on June 9, and the attorneys for the pair today sought the arrest warrant affidavit, which has been sealed by a judge.

“The facts supporting the arrest are still unknown by the defendants,” Safire told Judge Samuel Feng at this morning’s hearing.

Feng said he would review the affidavit and make a ruling by Friday, when the pair is scheduled to return to court.

“This is a case that needs some thought,” the judge said. “It’s a very serious case, there’s a lot of emotions.”

The emotions were evident in the dozens of family members and friends of Gilton and Mercado who showed up in court this morning.

Most of them declined to speak to reporters outside of court, but one, Gilton’s cousin Maxine Jones, said she is distraught by the case.

“Here’s a young man trying to take care of his family and provide for them,” Jones said. “Something like this happens where he has to save his daughter.”

She said, “I’m just hurt, and hope justice will be in his favor and Lupe’s favor.”

Safire said that Gilton works as a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus operator and grew up in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood but was living in the Bayview.

Gilton and Mercado face charges of murder, conspiracy, and various firearm offenses. They are being held on $2 million bail each.

The daughter is currently staying with family members, Safire said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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