An Orange County prosecutor said Friday that a young Tustin Marine appears to be the only suspect in a "robbery gone awry" that left two people dead and a third wounded at a Newport Beach rare coin dealership in March.
Eric Jon Wick, a 20-year-old son of a Reno-based FBI agent, made his first appearance in an Orange County courtroom Friday to answer charges that he murdered two people and wounded another during a robbery at the Newport Coin Exchange on March 14.
Wearing Levi's and a white T-shirt, and sporting a traditional Marine Corps crew cut, the young lance corporal asked to be represented by a public defender. His scheduled arraignment was postponed one week.
He is charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery and burglary in the deaths of Clyde Oatts, 45, of Irvine, Renee Ratoon King, 38, and the wounding of her 37-year-old husband, William D. King, owner of the coin business. The Kings lived in Orange at the time of the shootings. Police said at the time that all three were shot execution style in the back of the head.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas J. Borris said he will seek two special-circumstance charges of murder during the commission of a felony, and a third special-circumstance charge of multiple murder. Those charges mean Wick could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A Nevada attorney who said he will be assisting in the defense of Wick said they will seek to prove that police have apprehended the wrong man.
"Identification is absolutely a factor," Fred Gibson III, a private attorney who said he has known the Wick family for several years, said in a telephone interview from Reno.
Newport Beach detectives have sought to link Wick to the slayings through his fingerprints, which they say were found on a receipt for the purchase of some coins and on a display case at the scene of the crime.
But Gibson, a former federal prosecutor in Nevada, dismissed that evidence.
"The place where the shooting took place is a publicly available facility and just because a person's prints were found doesn't mean that person perpetrated a crime," Gibson said.
The shootings occurred in the coin exchange offices on MacArthur Boulevard near John Wayne Airport. Wick is being held without bail in Orange County Jail.
He was arrested June 8 by military investigators at his family's Reno home after he left the Tustin Marine Corps Helicopter Station without leave, authorities said.
Gibson, who said he expects to arrive in Orange County next week, said he has talked to Wick several times since his arrest but would not characterize his attitude.
The suspect's father, FBI agent Bruce Wick, mother and two younger sisters were left "terribly distraught and shocked" by the arrest, Gibson said. "The family is together and are doing their best to put themselves back together."
Police have said they believe robbery was the motive for the attack and are trying to link several valuable coins and a 9-millimeter semiautomatic weapon found in Wick's possession to the slayings.
Wick has no record of convictions for any previous offenses, Borris said. Steve Merrill, Marine spokesman at the Tustin base, said Wick has never been court-martialed. Any instances of lesser disciplinary action would not be made public, Merrill said.
On active duty since May 4, 1988, Wick was a small-arms repairman assigned to the armory. Merrill said Wick had never been a member of a military shooting team and did not have the qualifications to use a handgun.
"Most lance corporals are not (qualified for using handguns) and there is no requirement that you need to be an expert shot to be a weapons repairman," he added.
Merrill said the Marine Corps will not act to discharge Wick unless he is convicted of the civilian charges.
Meanwhile, Borris said it is not known whether William King will be able to testify for the prosecution if the case comes to trial.
King is recovering at home from gunshot wounds to the head and chest suffered during the assault.
"He suffered severe head wounds and we haven't pressed him a lot (in the investigation)," Borris said. "We have no idea if he will be well enough to testify."