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California and the West

Transient Held in Stabbing Death of Boy

Crime: Police say Wisconsin man made incriminating statement about Oceanside death after arrest in unrelated Hollywood attack.

November 17, 1998|TONY PERRY and CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A 20-year-old transient from Wisconsin with a history of drug use was arrested Monday in the slashing murder Saturday night of a 9-year-old boy in an Oceanside beachfront restroom, Oceanside police said.

The suspect, Brandon Wilson, made incriminating statements about the Oceanside case after being arrested Monday morning in Hollywood after a woman was stabbed during a purse snatching attempt, police in Oceanside and Los Angeles said.

Wilson, whose last address was in St. Croix Falls, Wis., was carrying a knife with a wooden handle and a 4-inch blade when he was subdued by three men and a woman as he tried to flee after attacking Maria Rosales, 40, of Hollywood, said Los Angeles police Det. Mike McDonagh.

Matthew Louis Cecchi, 9, a straight-A student who loved baseball and the beach, was repeatedly stabbed and slashed in the throat about 8 p.m. in a restroom near the Oceanside beach where his family was having a weekend reunion.

At a late afternoon news conference Monday, Oceanside police said they have a weapon taken from Wilson but declined to say whether they believe it is the knife that killed Matthew.

Still, Oceanside Lt. Dave Herring told reporters, "He has made comments concerning and connecting him to the incident in Oceanside. We're confident we have the right person."

Herring said Wilson spent Saturday night in a motel in Oceanside. He said that no motive has yet been established but that robbery or sexual assault are probably not the motives.

McDonagh said Wilson was "calm, coherent and appeared not to be under the influence of anything" when he was arrested in Hollywood.

In the Northern California town of Oroville, where Matthew lived with his parents and a 3-year-old brother, his father, Louis Cecchi, said he hopes that his son's killer is executed. Cecchi said he moved his family from Anaheim a decade ago to escape the congestion and crime.

"It's like a nightmare that I never wake up from," Cecchi said. "It hasn't hit me yet that he's not coming home. He was my best friend."

Cecchi, a hospital security director on medical leave, did not accompany his son to the beach reunion with other members of the family because he is recuperating from cancer treatments. Matthew was at the beach camp-out with his mother and his grandparents, aunt and uncle. The family was staying in a rented motor home at the popular vacationing spot, about 60 feet from the restroom.

The boy's aunt was waiting for him outside the restroom when the attack occurred. When he did not respond to her calls, she entered the restroom and found his body. Paramedics pronounced Matthew dead at the scene.

The aunt and other witnesses reported seeing a young white male, about 5 feet, 3 inches tall, possibly a teenager weighing 125 pounds, running from the scene. Los Angeles police said Wilson is 5-foot-4 and weighs 125 pounds.

Witnesses said the suspect was dressed in blue jeans and a gray or plaid sweatshirt. When arrested, Wilson was wearing tan-colored pants and a maroon sweater.

After being questioned by Oceanside police, Wilson was booked into San Diego County Jail in Vista. He will be arraigned on a murder charge and possibly other charges either Tuesday or Wednesday, a spokesman for the county district attorney said.

For prosecutors to seek the death penalty, evidence must show that a suspect committed a murder during another crime, tortured his victim, was "laying in wait" for a victim, or has committed other murders.

Officials would not say exactly what Wilson told Los Angeles police that led them to notify Oceanside, except that the statements were made quickly and voluntarily.

Wilson was arrested at 6:20 a.m. just minutes after the attack at Lexington Avenue and Seward Street. McDonagh said that when she was attacked, Rosales "started screaming. The witnesses heard her and overpowered him. They saved her life."

By 7:30 a.m., Los Angeles police, who had not heard of the Oceanside death, had called Oceanside police after Wilson made incriminating statements about that case, police said.

On Monday, makeshift flower memorials were being laid at the cinder-block restroom where Matthew was killed. Oceanside police and firefighters started a fund in his name with the San Diego County Credit Union.

Oceanside Police Chief Mike Poehlman, his voice catching slightly, said that "all of San Diego County is affected when a child is killed in this fashion."

The boy's parents said they were coping "minute to minute" with their grief.

"Parents out there should watch their children even to the point of being paranoid," said Louis Cecchi. "There are creeps out there. We live in a society of predators."

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