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Stotlar Found Guilty in Santa Ana Murder

July 22, 1987|DAVE LESHER | Times Staff Writer

'I think this (verdict) should be fair warning to the other two (defendants) of what they can expect. If Valerie Kalman thinks she might be able to sell a bill of goods to a jury, I want her to take notice.'

--Jeoffrey L. Robinson, deputy district attorney

Timothy S. Stotlar was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder in Orange County Superior Court for shooting Santa Ana lawyer Jessie M. Grimes in the head as he lay dying from two gunshots fired by another attacker.

The jury deliberated barely half a day before returning from lunch with its decision. Afterward, several jurors said the case against Stotlar, 20, of Anaheim was "overwhelming."

"There was just so much (evidence) you really couldn't get over it," said a juror who asked not to be identified. He said the panel agreed throughout its deliberations.

Stotlar faces a maximum term of 27 years to life when he appears in court Aug. 14 for sentencing, as ordered by Judge John J. Ryan. He does not face a death penalty because the killing involved no special circumstances.

Stotlar was the first of three defendants scheduled to be tried for the Aug. 20 murder of Grimes, 55, a Santa Ana family-law lawyer. The prosecution contended that the killing had been sparked by a love triangle and that the murder had involved a self-described "hit man" who was armed with a silencer-equipped pistol.

George R. Peterson, 28, charged as the other gunman, and Valerie L. Kalman, 20, who was romantically linked with both Stotlar and Grimes, are to be tried separately.

Verdict Seen as Warning

"I think this should be fair warning to the other two of what they can expect," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey L. Robinson.

Robinson said Peterson bears the most responsibility for the killing, but if "Valerie Kalman thinks she might be able to sell a bill of goods to a jury . . . I want her to take notice."

Before the trial, Stotlar rejected the prosecution's offer to plead guilty to second-degree murder, Robinson said.

"He was rolling the dice going in," Robinson said. "He got greedy."

Defense attorney Alex J. Forgette said Stotlar's only reaction was to request a new trial. Forgette said he will make that motion at sentencing.

Testimony during the trial described an off-and-on live-in relationship between Grimes and Kalman until shortly before the murder, when Grimes asked Kalman to leave. About that time, Robinson said, Stotlar had also begun seeing Kalman, and the two planned the killing together.

Stotlar, a former machine shop worker, introduced Kalman to Peterson. Peterson described himself as "a hit man" and agreed to participate in the scheme for the money that he might get from robbing Grimes after he was dead, Robinson said.

Kalman's brother, Sam, who said Stotlar boasted of the killing to him the following day, described the crime to the jury. He said Stotlar and Peterson went to Grimes' apartment in Santa Ana as friends of Valerie Kalman's, who had not yet moved out. Sam Kalman said they chased Grimes into his bedroom, where he closed and locked the door.

Peterson, armed with a .22-caliber handgun and a 14-inch silencer, fired through the door and kicked it open, Sam Kalman testified. He said Peterson then shot Grimes twice in the chest, but in the instant before he died, Grimes lunged at Peterson.

At that point, Stotlar pulled a .32-caliber Baretta pistol and fired a shot into Grimes' temple, Sam Kalman testified. The noise from Stotlar's handgun, however, prompted the attackers to flee before they could rob Grimes, Robinson said.

Half an hour after the murder, Stotlar, Peterson and Kalman were stopped by California Highway Patrol officers because Peterson was driving erratically. The police, unaware of the murder, found more than half a dozen weapons in the trunk of the car but charged Peterson only with speeding and unlawful possession of weapons.

Days later, two of the guns were tested and found to be the weapons used in the murder. Wrrants were issued for the three defendants. Stotlar was apprehended two months later at his home.

Throughout the case, the defense maintained that there was no direct evidence placing Stotlar at the scene of the murder except the testimony of Sam Kalman, who had admitted to perjuring himself in the preliminary hearing.

Forgette said after the verdict that the case turned on the credibility of Sam Kalman.

Several jurors said afterward they believe Kalman's account because it was corroborated by other evidence.

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