For The Madera Tribune
Prop. 57 poses possibility she may become free woman
Brittany Navarra of Madera was 16 in 2008 when she and Dustin Gran, then 18, became involved in a deadly, adolescent love triangle gone wrong.
Both Navarra and Gran were convicted of murder in the killing of 18-year-old Krista Pike of Madera, and received sentences of life without the possibility of parole.
Navarra had reportedly been motivated to plot Pike’s murder because she had been briefly dating Pike’s fiance’, Thomas Hollier, and she had been jilted by him, just days after Pike’s return to Madera from an out-of-town visit.
Navarra is now scheduled to appear in Madera Superior Court, Juvenile Division, for a transfer hearing on April 9. That hearing could result in her being freed.
The hearing was prompted by ballot Proposition 57 passed in November 2016, which mandates that all juvenile offenders can have their cases initially filed in juvenile courts.
This recent law changed the discretion previously given to prosecutors to file particularly serious juvenile cases in adult court, according to the Madera County District Attorney’s office.
In one of the most gruesome and sensational trials in recent Madera history, Navarra, after many delays was convicted in a 2014 jury trial of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit murder and a further charge of lying-in-wait for the victim.
Co-conspirator Dustin Gran reportedly was motivated by Navarra to bludgeon Krista Pike unconscious with a heavy object, likely a dumbbell weight, from behind, as she sat on a couch in her fiance’s family home. He then repeatedly stabbed her, removed her clothing and continued to mutilate her until she bled to death.
The idea for the murder plot had reportedly come from a television movie about assassins a group of teens had watched together a few weeks before, according to interviews conducted by detectives.
Gran, who had pled not guilty by reason of insanity, was also convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit murder and a further charge of lying-in-wait for the victim.
Navarra reportedly had convinced and enticed Gran to kill Pike, who had recently returned to Madera, because Navarra perceived Pike as a romantic rival who stood in the way of her possible affections for Hollier.
Murder law allows Navarra, a juvenile, to be charged equally for the murder although she was not present during the actual crime, but instead had planned, and instigated the attack and murder, as was demonstrated through statements and a series of text messages and photos Navarra and Gran had exchanged, among other evidence.
Navarra, now 28, already has spent approximately 11 years in custody, between local jails and state prison.
The murder trial was moved and held in Modesto due to the wide pretrial publicity.
Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno said Navarra was not currently scheduled to be released and the April 9 trial had become necessary because “prosecutors previously had absolute discretion on whether we were going to prosecute minors as juveniles or adults. Prop 57, she said, changed that power back to the judicial branch, on where a minor should be tried.
“Now, if we want to try a minor as an adult we have to ask a judge’s permission before we do that. It’s variously referred to as a transfer or a fitness hearing. Because the Navarra case, with the appellate process, was not concluded and final when Prop 57 was passed (November of 2016) this applies to her (Navarra).” she said.
Moreno said there were a number of reasons for the delays in the initial prosecution.
“There were a lot of technical problems, the case was handled by a number of different people in the DA’s office. Finally, Miguel Valdavinos tried Ms. Navarra and Dustin Gran, and they were both tried in Modesto.”
Navarra was in custody within a few days of Pike’s murder, according to Moreno.
The State of California ruled in the fall of 2018 that Navarra had a right to a transfer hearing because of Prop 57.
“There are two outcomes of this transfer hearing (currently scheduled in Madera for April 9 in juvenile court), said Moreno. Either Navarra will be found unfit for juvenile court and transferred to adult court, or she will be found fit for juvenile court and dealt with according to juvenile law. I think we are on very firm legal footing and have the law on our side, trying to get her transferred to adult court.”
“I am very hopeful that the court will rule that she (Navarra) is not a fit person for juvenile court and will transfer her to adult court and thereafter will reinstate the sentence (of life without parole) originally pronounced by the judge. We have a very full record that has been litigated on this case and a lot of the issues that relate to this case, this defendant and this crime.
In fact, a judge has already made a determination that this defendant should serve life without the possibility of parole, as opposed to 25 years to life, which is a significant determination, particularly for a juvenile.” Moreno said.
The victim’s families have all been notified, she said, and the coming trial event was likely to be traumatic and painful for the community and everyone involved.
“There is another, less likely outcome — that the judge will say ‘no,’ she should have been kept in juvenile court’ and at that point the problem is that the juvenile court loses jurisdiction at the age of 25. If the court rules she should have been tried in juvenile court, the likely outcome would be she (Navarra) would be released. I don’t think it’s going to happen but it’s a possibility,” Moreno said.
Proposition 57 has affected more than a handful of other local cases, Moreno said.
“We don’t often have juveniles who are committing this level of crime. But when we do, the law (Prop 57) has made it so we don’t have a good way to deal with them. We don’t relish the idea of juveniles in adult court but every once in a while you have someone that belongs in adult court, facing adult consequences for their actions. We filed it in adult court because of her age and the crime, as was our absolute right at the time. These laws make it harder and harder to keep people safe, but we are working to get it done and I think we are having a lot of success.”
Moreno agreed the crime was heinous and, “It’s certainly a case where we should be able to incarcerate this person. We are working hard, and sometimes (due to these laws) it feels uphill, but we are working together with law enforcement to do everything we can to keep Madera safe,” Moreno said.
Dustin Gran, now 30, is currently serving life without parole at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obsipo near the central coast.