Jury to be Seated for Retrial of Man Accused of Killing Friend After Slap

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A jury is slated to be seated Monday for the retrial of a convicted felon accused of gunning down a 39-year-old San Jacinto man after the victim slapped him during an argument.

Melvin Mario James Landry, 42, of San Jacinto allegedly killed Gilbert Wah in 2020.

A Banning jury deliberated two days in January before deadlocking, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Rene Navarro declared a mistrial.

The case was transferred a week ago from the Banning Justice Center to the Riverside Hall of Justice, where Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz began summoning panels of prospective jurors for screening as to their availability and qualifications.

The judge is expected to swear in a panel Monday afternoon, with opening statements possible Tuesday morning.

Landry, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail, is charged with murder and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

According to a trial brief filed by the prosecution, on the night of July 23, 2020, Wah, his wife, Octavia Wah, and Landry got together at the victim’s house at 801 S. Camino Los Banos to “drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.”

The defense said in its brief Landry was in the midst of a divorce from his wife, Sylvia Joshua, because “he was caught cheating” on her. He was also suffering depression from the recent death of his mother and was upset that his sister had moved out of the area.

As he, the victim and Octavia Wah drank and smoked long into the night, tensions escalated due to Gilbert Wah’s references to Landry as a “pussy” and “bitch” — demeaning terms used to describe the defendant’s relationship with his wife, according to the prosecution’s brief.

Shortly after 3 a.m. on July 24, Wah became aggressive, slapping Landry across the face, the brief stated.

The defendant did not hit back, but instead went to his Dodge Durango pickup parked in front of the house, grabbed a semiautomatic handgun, then returned to the house and confronted Wah, firing a single shot into his heart, prosecutors allege.

The victim died on the spot.

His wife struck Landry and attempted to stop him from leaving, but he got away from her in his pickup. She called 911, and patrol deputies converged on the location.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Thurm said as personnel were gearing up to begin a search, Landry “returned to the scene and surrendered.”

Court records show the defendant has a prior misdemeanor conviction in Riverside County for driving under the influence. He has a felony conviction in another jurisdiction, but the offense wasn’t listed.

Court papers indicated Wah, too, had a record, including battery on a peace officer in another state, as well as a fraud conviction locally.

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