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Coast Guard Member Sentenced to 20-to-Life for Astoria Murder

The victim was preparing to move out of New York State when he was fatally shot.
The victim was preparing to move out of New York State when he was fatally shot.
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DNAinfo/Chelsia Rose Marcius

ASTORIA — A Brooklyn sailor has been sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for fatally shooting a 22-year-old Queens man, who was packing his SUV to flee to North Carolina, Queens prosecutors said Wednesday.

Marcus Ayala, 22, of Brownsville, was on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard when he shot Kalif Canady February 20, 2010. Ayala, who told a shipmate and cops he believed Canady was linked to his cousin's 2009 death, has been held without bail since his arrest.

Canady, reportedly fearing for his life, was packing his GMC Denali SUV outside the Astoria Houses complex along 27th Avenue at 1:15 a.m. and was planning to flee to North Carolina with his girlfriend, Cassandra Gray, and her child, according to the DA's office.

Ayala was convicted last month after a nine-day trial of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years to life in prison.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown called the slaying a "senseless act of violence."

"He is a threat to society and the lengthy prison sentence imposed today by the court ensures that he will not be on the streets and able to harm other citizens," Brown said.

Ayala, who wore a hoodie and had his face covered from the nose down, approached Canady and Gray as they were finishing loading the van, officials said. 

Gray noticed that Ayala was holding a gun in one hand and tried to warn her boyfriend. That’s when Ayala began shooting, striking Canady twice in the head, as well as in his left forearm and thigh. Canady was declared dead at the scene. 

Ayala, who at that time was stationed in Norfolk, Va., had rented a car and traveled from Virginia to New York two days before the shooting, prosecutors said.

Cops found that Ayala's cellphone records placed him in the vicinity of Canady’s murder at the time shots were fired.

He allegedly told a shipmate that he was going to New York with friends to find the person who had killed his cousin, Daud Abdul-Hakim in 2009. 

Eight months earlier, Ayala had told police that he believed that either Canady or other individuals from the so-called "Bama Houses" in Brooklyn were responsible for his cousin’s death.