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Jury Selection Begins in Trial of Accused Hillsdale Shopping Center Killer

Gregory Elarms is charged with murdering East Palo Alto community activist David Lewis in the parking lot of Hillsdale Shopping Center in June 2010.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in San Mateo County Superior Court in the trial of Gregory Elarms, 60, who is accused of fatally shooting David Lewis outside Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo on June 9, 2010.

Elarms, who pleaded not guilty to the murder last month, had previously been found incompetent to stand trial and was even sent to a state hospital following his arrest.

The court was scheduled for a hearing on the trial motions on Monday, and jury selection was slated to begin Tuesday.

September's not guilty plea was Elarm's first appearance since Judge Lisa Novak ruled on Aug. 22 that he was competent to stand trial and reinstated murder charges.

Elarms was committed to Atascadero State Hospital in July 2011 and criminal proceedings were suspended after questions were raised about his mental health.

Elarms in September declined to waive his right to a speedy trial, forcing prosecutors and defense attorneys to prepare for an Oct. 29 trial date, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti.

McDougall argued in court on Aug. 22 that Elarms' mental competency had not been restored, but Superior Court Judge Lisa Novak found that he could understand the charges against him.

Elarms is suspected of following Lewis -- whom he knew from growing up in East Palo Alto -- from the San Mateo Medical Center to the nearby Hillsdale Mall on the evening of June 9, 2010, and then shooting him once in the stomach with a .44-caliber handgun.

The shooter fled the scene, but when responding police officers asked a dying Lewis who shot him, he managed to mutter "Greg" before losing consciousness, according to prosecutors.

Police were unable to make any arrests until December 2010, when a man in Pittsburg contacted investigators with information about the unsolved case. The man -- who turned out to be Gregory Elarms -- said he needed police protection because David Lewis' killers were threatening to kill him.

Elarms was brought into custody, where under questioning he confessed to shooting Lewis because he believed Lewis had opposed him in a residential dispute, police said.

He also said that at times he had to sleep in the trunk of his car because he believed members of the street gang Nuestra Familia were going to kill him, according to prosecutors.

Elarms, who is being held without bail, has been charged with murder, discharging a gun in the course of murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and the special circumstance of lying in wait. He faces life in prison if convicted.

 

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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