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Jurors Deadlock in Murder Trial

December 19, 1985|JAN KLUNDER | Times Staff Writer

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict Wednesday in the murder trial of a Texas teen-ager accused of robbing a woman at gunpoint, then killing a good Samaritan who gave chase in an attempt to capture him.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge James A. Albracht declared a mistrial after jurors announced that they were hopelessly deadlocked, 6 to 6, in the trial of John Wayne Henderson, 18, after four days of deliberations.

Four witnesses testified during the trial that Henderson stole a woman's purse as she entered her car in the parking lot of a Ralphs market in Van Nuys on Jan. 3, 1984. The witnesses said the suspect then fled on foot.

Ronnie Nelson, 26, of Panorama City heard the woman scream and chased the assailant on his motorcycle, only to be fatally shot through the heart. Another man wrestled down the suspect in the alley behind the market and, although the killer got away, the witness stripped him of his high school letterman's jacket, according to testimony.

Police Traced Jacket

Police traced the jacket to Lake Worth High School in Texas and arrested Henderson in April, 1984, based on eyewitness descriptions.

However, Henderson took the stand to testify that witnesses had confused him with his friend, Michael Romine, who resembles him. Henderson said Romine had borrowed his jacket on the day of the killing, while both were visiting Los Angeles, and announced that he was "going to make some money."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Simon R. Hiller said he still believes that Henderson was the assailant and will seek a new trial. Hiller said police have no evidence against Romine.

Albracht asked attorneys in the case to return to court on Jan. 7 for the scheduling of a new trial, and ordered Henderson held without bail.

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