A 23-year-old Somis woman pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to intimidate witnesses in the murder case against white supremacist Justin Merriman.
Jennifer Wepplo is the second woman to admit she attempted to frighten grand jury witnesses helping prosecutors build their case against Merriman, who is charged with the 1992 rape and murder of a Santa Monica College student.
Wepplo, whom prosecutors describe as a longtime friend of Merriman, 26, is expected to serve a year in jail for writing letters at Merriman's direction to other incarcerated members of his Ventura white supremacist gang, the Skin Head Dogs.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Bamieh said that in one of at least eight letters, Wepplo suggested that a witness be "taken out." Bamieh said investigators traced the letters, signed with the alias "Jenny Somis," to Wepplo through the return address on the envelope.
Wepplo's lawyer, Nancy Aronson, declined to comment.
Katrina Montgomery, 20, disappeared after leaving an Oxnard party that Merriman also attended at the home of a skinhead. Her body was never recovered and for years investigators were stumped. In 1997, they found a witness who told a grand jury he saw Merriman rape, stab and bludgeon Montgomery to death. Merriman pleaded not guilty to charges earlier this year.
Wepplo, who has been in jail since June, had little to say in her court appearance before Judge Bruce A. Clark. Dressed in a blue jail uniform, her strawberry blond hair pulled back in two small pigtails, she answered questions with a simple "Yes, sir."
She hesitated only when Bamieh asked her to confirm that she acted on behalf of a gang.
The maximum sentence for the felony charge of conspiracy is seven years. The plea agreement between the prosecution and defense limited the jail term to a year. Formal sentencing is set for next month.
Another woman, Samantha Medina, 25, of Madera last month pleaded guilty to conspiring to intimidate witnesses in Merriman's case. She also is expected to serve one year in jail. Her sentencing hearing is set for next week.
Merriman's mother, Beverlee Sue Merriman, who also faces conspiracy and perjury charges, is scheduled to appear in court later this month.
Prosecutors have said Justin Merriman solicited help from another three women, but they have not been charged. Merriman's trial is set for next March.