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Case Goes to Jury in Slaying of Widow, 98

July 31, 1986|BYRON McCAULEY | Times Staff Writer

The jury will begin deliberations today in the trial of a Glendale man charged in the 1984 beating death of a 98-year-old widow.

The trial was highlighted this week by conflicting testimony about a palm print found on a fan in the victim's home.

Prosecution witnesses maintain that the palm print of Joseph John Reyes was found on a fan in the bedroom of Edna McFarland's home on Pacific Avenue in Glendale. Reyes, 23, is charged with beating McFarland to death and is accused of stealing government-issued butter and cheese from her refrigerator.

Fingerprint experts, called by Deputy Dist. Atty. Donald A. Musich, named 15 points of similarity between the print found on the fan and a print made of Reyes' left palm when he was in custody.

Prints Made by 'Same Person'

"In my opinion, they were made by one and the same person," testified Hannah Woods, a deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who specializes in fingerprints.

Another expert, Joseph F. Downs, senior identification technician at the Glendale Police Department, said the prints found on the fan were "positively" those of Reyes.

However, Lee Smith, a private consultant called by defense attorney Philip A. Center, testified that he found three unexplainable dissimilarities between the prints. Smith said that, if one dissimilarity is found, "you must disregard the identification altogether."

Woods admitted that the print removed from the fan was of poor quality, but said all the supposed dissimilarities could be attributed to things like dust and the amount of pressure from the hand.

The trial before Judge Jack B. Tso in Pasadena Superior Court included six days of testimony. Reyes, a part-time moving company employee who lived near McFarland, is charged with one count of first-degree murder and a special circumstances allegation of burglary. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Earlier testimony centered on the government-issued butter and cheese that Reyes allegedly took from McFarland's refrigerator.

Mary Camarillo, identified as the former common-law wife of Reyes' uncle, who lived in the same house with Reyes during the time of the murder, said Reyes arrived home at about 3 or 4 a.m. the morning after the alleged attack.

Camarillo testified that, when she got up to make breakfast about 9:30 that morning, Reyes was asleep on a couch and she saw government-issued butter and cheese on a kitchen table, along with several six-ounce cans of vegetables and frozen meats that had been opened.

Changed Behavior

Camarillo said Reyes' behavior changed in the next few days. Before then, she said, Reyes had slept most of the day and was out most of the night. Afterwards, she said, he was out most of the day and returned at night.

Lorena Henderson, a friend of McFarland, testified that McFarland had offered to share the cheese with her. Henderson was one of two friends who discovered McFarland sprawled on her bedroom floor Aug. 14, 1984. She died in the hospital two days later. While cleaning up McFarland's apartment later, Henderson said, she noticed that the cheese and possibly some butter was missing.

Allan G. Bell testified earlier that he took McFarland and his elderly mother, Winifred Bell, to the Salvation Army office on July 10, 1984, to receive cheese.

"I received it too at that time. We had quite a load," he said. "We had to carry it in plastic sacks." Bell said McFarland was dependent on him and that it was "usually routine" for him to take McFarland and his mother when cheese and butter was offered.

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