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Linkenauger Murder Case Heads for Jury : Courts: The defense says the case against the Moorpark man is based on circumstantial evidence and incomplete police work.

September 01, 1993|JEFF McDONALD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The prosecution's case against a Moorpark man accused of killing his wife is based on circumstantial evidence and incomplete police work that fails to prove him guilty, a defense attorney said Tuesday.

Sheriff's investigators arrested James Linkenauger, 39, only minutes after finding bloodstains on the walls of the couple's home, attorney Louis B. Samonsky Jr. told a Ventura County Superior Court jury.

But those same investigators failed to notice the spatters of blood when they first visited the house hours before, he said.

"What happened from there has been nothing less than a runaway stagecoach," Samonsky said in his closing argument.

For the first time during the five-week trial, the jury on Tuesday heard from the defense attorney how someone else could have killed JoAnn Linkenauger, the 39-year-old Moorpark woman who was beaten and choked to death inside her home.

The jury is scheduled to begin its deliberations today.

Samonsky had hinted outside court that someone else might have strangled JoAnn Linkenauger on Jan. 17, but offered the jury no such evidence during the trial.

The woman's battered and half-naked body was found the following day, dumped in a muddy ravine near Somis with her car stranded by the roadside 10 feet away.

According to Samonsky, someone other than his client entered the Moorpark home after JoAnn Linkenauger returned from her weekend in Las Vegas around 8 p.m.

An intruder could have beaten the woman to death while James Linkenauger lay passed out in a nearby bedroom from a daylong drinking binge, Samonsky said. Or, he said, the killing could have taken place before his client arrived home.

"Who's to say that during that 2 1/2 hours that someone JoAnn would have known showed up at the house?" Samonsky asked jurors. "Stranger things have happened."

Samonsky told jurors that investigators never looked beyond James Linkenauger for suspects in the slaying once they determined that JoAnn Linkenauger was beaten and killed at the home.

"She is known to have dated after she got married," said Samonsky, who said the victim was not wearing her wedding ring the weekend she was killed. "If there's the slightest chance that she had some sort of relationship with someone else, it should have been investigated."

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Matthew J. Hardy, who was given an opportunity to rebut the defense attorney's position, said Samonsky's argument insulted the jurors' intelligence.

"You bet she had a secret life," he told the jury. "The secret life she had was hiding the bruises that he gave her."

The defendant had beaten his wife previously and JoAnn Linkenauger twice asked a judge to order her husband to stop striking her, according to evidence presented during the trial.

Several neighbors testified that they heard screams and saw a woman being dragged toward the Linkenauger home around 10:20 p.m. on the day of the attack.

If there were screams, they were "probably not related to this case at all," Samonsky said. "Jim was walking down from the Moorpark Moose (Lodge), staggering at that point in time."

Samonsky repeatedly told the jury that all of the evidence against his client was circumstantial and that jurors must acquit James Linkenauger unless they are convinced he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Linkenauger did not act like a guilty man, Samonsky said. For instance, he made no attempt to clean up the blood or rid the home of other incriminating evidence before investigators came to the home to question him late Monday, the attorney said.

"He had all day Monday to get rid of it," Samonsky said.

Samonsky also suggested that detectives who interviewed Linkenauger before he was arrested ignored his client's explanations for various pieces of evidence, Samonsky said. "Jim was not being listened to (because) the police had made up their minds."

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