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Suspect Ordered to Trial in Boy's Dismemberment

June 18, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

An Egyptian emigre was ordered Wednesday to stand trial in the March killing and dismemberment of a 12-year-old La Habra boy, whose body parts were found encased in concrete blocks discarded in his neighborhood.

John Samuel Ghobrial, 27, faces arraignment June 29 in Santa Ana on the charge of murdering Juan Delgado with the special circumstance of sexual assault.

Ghobrial pleaded not guilty at a hearing June 5.

La Habra detectives testified Wednesday in Municipal Court in Fullerton that they found Juan's clothes and a school detention slip bearing his name in the tiny shed Ghobrial rented, the floor of which was covered with still-wet, crumbled concrete when they searched it.

Neighbors had called police March 21 after they found fresh concrete blocks oozing blood in their yards. The larger one--204 pounds--revealed Juan's torso, legs and right arm when investigators cracked it open at the coroner's office, La Habra Police Cpl. Rodney Ballard said. The smaller concrete cylinder--88 pounds--held the boy's head and left arm, he said.

Friends and neighbors told police that, before the boy's disappearance, they occasionally saw him with Ghobrial--joking with the man, buying him candy or walking off to play basketball, according to testimony. Home Depot employees told investigators they sold Ghobrial concrete mix and told him how to prepare it March 19, two days after the boy disappeared.

Ghobrial, who has one arm, sat impassively in his jail-issued jumpsuit while a court translator whispered in his ear, relaying the gruesome testimony in Arabic. He blinked and occasionally glanced around the courtroom.

"I would like to have some time alone with him," Jose Maria Delgado, the victim's uncle, said after the hearing. "But it's not my job. It's for the law."

Ghobrial's attorneys argued there was no evidence a sexual assault occurred, and thus no "special circumstance" to elevate the murder to a capital crime.

But with the adult magazines, children's toys and clothes police said they found at Ghobrial's shed, and the fact that the boy's pelvis was separated from the rest of his body parts and has yet to be found, Judge Phillip R. McGraw ruled there was enough evidence Ghobrial should stand trial.

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