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In Hearing, Transient Says He Killed Boy

California and the West

Courts: Judge argues with defendant in brief exchange about needing an attorney.

November 19, 1998|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — A 20-year-old Wisconsin transient made a shocking courtroom confession Wednesday in the slashing death of a 9-year-old boy in an Oceanside restroom, as prosecutors indicated that they may seek the death penalty.

"I'm guilty," a handcuffed and shackled Brandon Wilson declared during his arraignment on a first-degree murder charge. "I did it. I killed that little boy."

Prosecutor David Rubin said that Wilson, within minutes of being arrested Monday in Los Angeles, gave a detailed confession to police about the Saturday night slaying of Matthew Cecchi. Wilson was already in custody on charges of stabbing a woman in the head during a Hollywood purse snatching.

Based on the confession, prosecutors accused Wilson of murder by ambush, a special circumstance that can lead prosecutors to ask for the death penalty. They also allege that he used a knife on the Northern California boy, which can be considered torture, another justification for seeking the death penalty.

After the 15-minute court session Wednesday, Rubin declined to comment on whether Wilson's attorney will enter an insanity plea and use the courtroom outburst as proof of his client's mental instability.

Rubin said Wilson told police that he planned to "go on killing until he was stopped" and was looking for an easily subdued victim when he went inside the beachfront restroom at a popular vacation spot. Matthew, who was attending a family reunion, had just entered the restroom, while his aunt, as a safety precaution, waited outside.

The aunt later told police that a slightly built teenage male came running out of the restroom. She rushed into the restroom and found her nephew bleeding to death, his throat cut virtually from ear to ear.

The aunt and other witnesses Tuesday identified Wilson as the man they saw running from the restroom. Wilson told police he had stalked two women on the beach with the thought of selecting one of them to rape and murder before deciding to kill Matthew.

Public defender Curt Owen tried to quiet Wilson but the defendant blurted, "I want to speak for myself." Wilson and Vista Municipal Judge Timothy Casserly then engaged in a back and forth the like of which is rarely heard in a criminal court.

"You need to give your attorney time to prepare a case," Casserly told Wilson.

"I don't need an attorney," Wilson said.

"Yes, you do," Casserly responded. "You're in a lot of trouble."

Owen entered a not guilty plea and Casserly set Dec. 18 for a preliminary hearing. Casserly had declined Owen's request to remove his client from the courtroom when he began his outburst.

Matthew, who lived in Oroville with his parents and 3-year-old brother, was in Oceanside with his aunt, uncle and grandparents. His father, Louis, who is recuperating from chemotherapy treatments, did not make the trip.

Wilson was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia earlier this year. Police have said that in the last two years he has drifted across the country, often traveling by bus.

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