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Man Given Light Sentence in '76 Murder Case : Crime: Richard Maytorena of Riverside, who confessed to killing an Oxnard man after a bar fight, gets one year in jail.

April 22, 1993|BARBARA MURPHY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A man who confessed to a 1976 murder in Oxnard will receive the unusually light sentence of one year in jail because his conscience has punished him for 17 years, a Ventura County judge said Wednesday.

"The more I think about this, the less ridiculous it seems," Superior Court Judge Charles W. Campbell Jr. said in announcing that Richard Maytorena, 46, of Riverside County would receive the jail term as part of probation.

The judge noted that police were not aware that a murder had been committed until Maytorena surprised them with his confession in February.

"If there ever was a case where a person should be considered for probation for committing second-degree murder, this case is it," Campbell said.

The sentence will become official at a hearing next week. With time off for good conduct, Maytorena could be released as early as September in the killing of an Oxnard man in a bar fight.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter D. Kossoris said the case warranted a state prison term.

Maytorena, in a letter to the court, said he would accept whatever sentence is imposed.

"Words cannot express the sorrow I have caused so many people," he wrote. "I know I have done the right thing by coming forward."

Maytorena, a plumber who was making as much as $50,000 a year, pleaded guilty last month to murdering Claude W. Bloomquist II, a 24-year-old body shop worker who died of smoke and soot inhalation after his car burned on an Oxnard street on July 16, 1976.

Investigators at the time concluded that the fire and death were accidental.

The case was reopened in February after the conscience-stricken Maytorena walked into a Riverside County sheriff's station in Moreno Valley and confessed to killing Bloomquist.

Maytorena told investigators that he and Bloomquist were drinking at an Oxnard bar and got into a fight outside. Bloomquist fell during the scuffle and hit his head. Unable to find a pulse, Maytorena assumed that the man was dead and placed him in the front seat of the car, according to Maytorena's statement to investigators. He said he then poured lighter fluid on the front seat of the car and set it on fire to destroy evidence of what he thought was a murder.

After he confessed, investigators told him that Bloomquist was alive after the fight but had died during the fire.

In his letter to the court, Maytorena said he tried unsuccessfully to forget the incident. The burden of his guilt was made heavier because he could not tell anyone what he had done, said Maytorena, who is divorced with two grown children.

"I take full responsibility for what happened," he said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't go over what happened. . . . The guilt was more than I could handle."

Under sentencing laws in effect when the crime occurred, Maytorena faced a potential sentence of five to seven years in prison.

His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Duane Dammeyer, requested probation, saying it is an unusual case because of the defendant's confession. Maytorena has a minor criminal record involving misdemeanor assault and drunk-driving convictions, but has had no legal problems since 1985, Dammeyer said.

Kossoris conceded that Maytorena represents no danger to the public. But the prosecutor urged a prison sentence, saying the defendant already received a break because he was not charged with first-degree murder. If Maytorena had confessed at the time of the crime, he almost certainly would have been sent to prison, Kossoris said.

The victim's father, Francis Bloomquist, told the judge that he opposed probation for Maytorena.

A prison sentence also was recommended by Deputy Probation Officer Bill Meschan, who prepared a pre-sentencing report for the judge.

"To be burned alive is a particularly heinous and horrible way to die," Meschan wrote. "It is no wonder that the crime haunted the defendant for close to 17 years."

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