The first-degree murder conviction of an El Sobrante man who strangled his ex-girlfriend and stuffed her body into his car trunk five years ago has been upheld by a state appeals court in San Francisco.
A three-judge Court of Appeal panel, in a ruling issued Monday, also increased the sentence of Scott McAlpin, 30, from a term of 50 years to life to 55 years to life in prison.
The court said McAlpin should be given the additional five years in prison because of a previous burglary conviction.
McAlpin was convicted in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 2008 of murdering his former girlfriend, 22-year-old San Francisco resident Anastasia Melnitchenko, known as Annie, on Oct. 22, 2005.
Her body was found the next morning when a National Park Service ranger noticed McAlpin sitting in his car on federal land in the Marin headlands, appearing to be ill and vomiting.
After McAlpin said he had been drinking vodka all night and failed a field sobriety test, a second ranger opened the trunk of his car and found Melnitchenko’s body.
McAlpin, who had several previous incidents of violence against the victim, admitted strangling her but contended he should be convicted only of voluntary manslaughter because she provoked him during an argument and caused him to “snap.”
The trial jury disagreed and accepted prosecutors’ claim that the killing was first-degree murder.
In Monday’s ruling, the appeals court rejected McAlpin’s arguments that several women were improperly excluded from his jury and that jurors were given incorrect instructions on the theory of provocation.
The panel also dismissed McAlpin’s claim that the jury should not have been allowed to hear evidence that Melnitchenko told a friend that she feared McAlpin was going to kill her.
The court said the evidence was relevant to disprove McAlpin’s claim that she had provoked him by telling him about sexual activities with other men.
“Annie’s alleged fear is not consistent with such provocative behavior and is directly relevant to whether she engaged in it,” Justice Terry Bruiniers wrote.