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Guilty Verdict Returned in Beating Death of Widow, 98

August 07, 1986|BYRON McCAULEY | Times Staff Writer

A 23-year-old Glendale man was found guilty last week of beating a 98-year-old widow to death two years ago.

After less than two hours of deliberation, a seven-man, five-woman Superior Court jury last Thursday found Joseph John Reyes guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Edna McFarland of Glendale, whom neighbors found sprawled on her bedroom floor Aug. 14, 1984. She died two days later in Glendale Memorial Hospital.

Investigators said Reyes killed the woman while burglarizing her Pacific Avenue home and stealing government-issue cheese and butter from her refrigerator.

A probation and sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 5 before Judge Jack B. Tso, who presided over the trial in Pasadena. Deputy Dist. Atty. Donald A. Musich is seeking the maximum penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole. Because the victim was older than 60, Reyes could receive another three years. The jury also found Reyes guilty of burglary.

Attorney Studies Evidence

Philip A. Center, the defense attorney, said he is studying new evidence in the case, but has not decided whether to appeal or ask for a new trial.

In interviews, jurors said they were influenced most by evidence that Reyes' palm print was found on a fan inside McFarland's bedroom and that Reyes lived only a few blocks from the victim's home.

The jurors said they did not fully believe defense testimony of fingerprint consultant Lee Smith, who said he found three dissimilarities between the latent palm print found on the fan and the ink print of Reyes' palm taken by police. Smith said the print on the fan was not necessarily that of Reyes.

Musich called four fingerprint experts who had previously compared the palm prints, and all four testified that Reyes' palm print was found on the fan.

"The bottom line is that he didn't have a very good defense," said juror Leon Washington. "I just didn't believe Mr. Smith."

Reyes was linked to the case by Mary Camarillo, the common-law wife of Reyes' uncle, Joseph Sepulveda. After Sepulveda was arrested following a fight with Reyes, Camarillo told police that Reyes had brought home government-issued cheese and butter along with other food items early in the morning after the attack.

But jurors said Camarillo's testimony had little bearing on the verdict.

"What holds water is the palm print and that he never came up with an alibi," Washington said. Another juror, Ronald Harte, said an alley between the victim's home and Reyes' house suggested an easy access route for Reyes.

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