SACRAMENTO, Calif. — 29th Street Crip rapper Big Cuzzin was sentenced to life without parole on Thursday for the killing of 17-year-old Sac High student athlete Jaylen Betschart.
The rapper, whose real name is Curtis Slaton, was convicted of first-degree murder in late April after a jury saw evidence including a video of Slaton chasing Betschart down just before shooting him on October 3rd, 2020.
“Sucka’ is spooked,” the 35-year-old’s stepson, charged in juvenile court in relation to the killing, said in the video. “I’m behind him, dead homies.”
The teen’s car crashed into a pole, and he later died. Slaton and Deshaun Curtis-Simmons, 17 at the time, sped off in their car.
Prosecutors called the teen’s gang-tied killing a case of “mistaken motive” and “misplaced revenge” for a shooting the same day at Mama Marks Park that left a 9-year-old Makaylah Brent dead. Laise Hands, 23, has since been charged with murder in the shooting.
Betschart, who both parties agreed wasn’t in a gang but wore a red shirt that made him a target in the attack, was chased down and shot to death after dropping his friend off in Oak Park following a day of paintballing. As he dropped his friend off, Slaton and his stepson were waiting in a Dodge Avenger as the teen drove home.
Slaton and Curtis-Simmons boxed Betschart’s Pontiac Grand Prix into the inside lane at the corner of Jackson Highway and Florin-Perkins Road, pulled up alongside him, and opened fire. The teen spun off the road and flipped his car after crashing into a pole, dying at the scene. Gunshot residue was littered throughout the car, most of it on the driver’s side where Slaton sat.
The DA’s Office introduced evidence including several social media posts by Slaton and his appearance in a music video to link him to the 24th Street Crips, also known as the Garden Blocc Crips.
“In there, there are known gang members he’s rapping with, known members of the Crips,” DDA Bret Wasley said in court. “There are people holding blue bandanas and flashing C-Signs.”
Slaton wrote tributes on Facebook to deceased Crip Steven “Nuk” Jackson, shot and killed while driving his three kids home from a Fourth of July party in 2016, and told an associate that he planned to go “on a killing spree” following the Mama Marks Park shooting.
As investigators waited to execute a search warrant on Slaton’s home at Salmon Falls Drive the day after the murder, he and his wife left in the Dodge Avenger. Multiple cars pulled them over, held them at gunpoint, and brought them to the police station.
A search of a Gold Buick parked directly next to the Avenger, owned by the Slaton family, returned a .40 Caliber Glock pistol hidden under the back passenger seat.
At the station, Slaton confirmed ownership of the Avenger and the Buick as belonging to him and his son, confirmed his phone number, and said he spent October 3rd at home all day, only leaving between noon and 3 P.M. to get “a couple cases of soda.”
Analysis of Slaton’s cell phone shows it was off during the killing, but his son’s phone was on as he recorded the chase leading up to the event. A black pistol sat on his lap as Slaton drove, and a leopard print face mask hung from the steering wheel.
Mike Long, Slaton’s attorney, used this lack of phone data from Slaton to argue that the DA’s Office was attempting to prosecute Slaton for “guilt by association” and made heavy references to the data recovered from Curtis-Simmons’ phone at trial.
“The law does not require the defense to prove the identity of the driver of the Dodge Avenger at the time gunshots were fired,” Long said in court. “In criminal accusations, you will learn it is always the prosecution that bears the burden of proving the accusations using a ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard.”
Curtis-Simmons, first charged with gun possession and later with murder, was arrested first and his father was let go. Unbeknownst to him, the California Department of Justice initiated a wiretap on the phones of Slaton and his wife, later resulting in his arrest in March of 2021.
“Let me tell you something, Curtis, they can’t pinpoint who is in the car,” Slaton’s sister, Kasey, told him during a phone call. “So, keep your motherfucking mouth shut, Curtis.”
“On mamas,” he responded.