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Judge Orders Murder Trial to Continue

January 12, 1986|ALAN MALTUN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — The trial of a Pasadena man accused of murdering an elderly relative is scheduled to resume Monday after the judge denied a defense request to drop the charges because the man's mother allegedly has confessed to the killing.

During a half-hour hearing on the matter Thursday in Superior Court, Judge Lillian Stevens said, "I do not feel the court has the power at this time to stop the proceedings"

The judge also denied defense motions to turn over prosecution of the case to the state attorney general's office and to release the defendant, John Botting, from jail. Botting, 33, is accused of killing his uncle, Iner Alvin Thor, in July, 1984, to collect on Thor's estate.

Defense attorney Rayford Fountain said in opening remarks to the jury that Botting's mother, LaVerne Dennis, has made a tape-recorded confession that she--not her son--killed her 78-year-old brother-in-law during a drunken argument in Thor's Pasadena house. Dennis, 58, has refused to comment.

The district attorney's office decided to proceed with its case despite the existence of the tape, prompting Fountain to ask the judge to dismiss the charges. During the hearing, from which jurors were excluded, Fountain asked Stevens to listen to the tape before making her determination, but she refused and ordered that witness testimony begin immediately.

In opening trial testimony, Sharon Schnittker, a deputy medical examiner, said that Thor's death was caused by ligature strangulation and that she found rope burns, bruises and bone and cartilage fractures indicating that "rather uncommon" force was used in the killing.

Fountain said he plans to play the tape for the jury when he begins calling defense witnesses later this month.

Botting is accused of strangling Thor with a rope in the bedroom of the house they temporarily shared. Botting, who allegedly wrote a will making himself beneficiary of most of Thor's estate, also is charged with attempted grand theft and forgery.

Botting, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, was tried earlier this year on the same charges, but that trial ended in a hung jury, 11 to 1 for conviction on the murder count and 10 to 2 on the other charges.

Because he is accused of murder for financial gain, Botting faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted. He has been kept in jail since his arrest in 1984.

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