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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Ziesmer Reportedly Described Killing

Courts: Skinhead said he stabbed teen because he thought she was 'a rat,' grand jury transcripts say.

October 24, 2000|TINA DIRMANN and MATT SURMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

White supremacist David Ziesmer brutally stabbed Nichole Hendrix to death under the mistaken belief that she was "a rat" and had witnessed a crime that could send him to jail for the rest of his life, according to grand jury transcripts released Monday.

Ziesmer and six others were indicted on murder and related charges last month in the death of 17-year-old Hendrix, whose skeletal remains were found in the hills north of Ojai last year.

From the stand, Ziesmer and fellow gang members recounted a night of drug bingeing that ended with the vicious slaying of the Ventura teenager in the bathroom of a local motel, the transcripts said.

According to the documents, Ziesmer told prosecutors, "I made up my mind to murder Nichole because I didn't want to risk going to prison for the rest of my life."

Prosecutors acknowledged Hendrix's own problems. The teenager liked to drink, regularly used drugs and ran with a rough crowd, they said. She spent her last night alive, Oct. 14, 1998, with this crowd, which included her 35-year-old boyfriend.

According to the grand jury transcripts, the events of that night were recalled as follows:

Gathered at a Ventura motel room to drink and do drugs, the group was arrested by local police. Hendrix was released to her mother's custody, because she was a minor.

That apparently led her associates to believe she had cut a deal with police.

"So they assumed she had told on everybody," Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Bamieh told grand jurors in his opening statement. "That in fact, she was a rat."

Hendrix had no idea Skin Head Dog gang members were being told she was a traitor. She wanted to get her friends out of jail and thought she could help do that by selling stolen property her boyfriend had in his truck.

She called her friend, Bridget Callahan, 28, of Ventura to help her sell the property, Bamieh said. Before they could sell anything, Hendrix and Callahan took enough drugs to make Hendrix pass out, Bamieh said.

Callahan called Ziesmer, 27, and Michael Bridgeford, 24, both of Oxnard. Only days before, both had been paroled from prison, though in separate incidents.

The group decided to head to a motel to finish selling the stolen goods. On the way to City Center Motel in Ventura, according to Bridgeford's testimony, Ziesmer "hit [Hendrix] a couple of times, maybe once or twice, and called her a rat and spit on her."

After checking in under Callahan's name, the group dumped Hendrix into the room's closet after trying unsuccessfully to force more drugs into her body, Ziesmer and Bridgeford testified.

With Hendrix unconscious in the closet, friends of Ziesmer's came in and out of the room to buy the stolen merchandise, according to the testimony. By midnight, Hendrix emerged from her stupor and called her mother while Ziesmer was out of the room.

"I don't know where I'm at," Bridgeford recalled Hendrix telling her mother. "Leave the front gate or side gate open and I'll be home."

Ziesmer returned and erupted in anger after seeing Hendrix on the phone. He thought she would turn them in for selling the stolen property for drugs.

When Hendrix tried to leave, Ziesmer confronted her. He thought another felony arrest would qualify him for a life sentence under the state's three-strikes law. Bamieh said Ziesmer would not have been a three-strikes candidate.

"She has to go," Ziesmer said he announced to his friends.

Hendrix was ordered to sit in the bathtub. She knew what was coming and begged Callahan for help.

"Why is this happening?" Callahan said Hendrix asked.

"I don't even know how it even got to this point," replied Callahan, who then reached out to hug Hendrix and kiss her on the head.

"I'm really sorry. There's nothing I can do at this point," she told Hendrix, who was terrified. Then she stepped outside of the bathroom, turned up some music and stared out of a window, she testified.

Ziesmer rummaged through Hendrix's purse for the Swiss Army knife she carried and returned to the bathroom.

"I tried to stab her in the neck first," Ziesmer testified. "She didn't know it was coming. I continued to stab her in the chest and the neck, and at that time she was getting too wild for me, trying to kick me."

Bridgeford stepped in to hold down the struggling 4-foot, 10-inch teenager while Ziesmer continued his attack, according to testimony.

"I was losing it," Ziesmer said. "I kept stabbing, I can't remember where, and I lost the knife in the thing. I pushed Michael out of the way, and I started stomping on her on her head area and finally she stopped moving."

Ziesmer then cleaned the bloody scene, stopping periodically as friends dropped by to purchase stolen equipment. No one knew about Hendrix's body in the bathroom, he said.

Around 2 a.m. the trio cleaned up the room and wrapped Hendrix in the motel's bedding. They dumped her into the back of the truck and drove to Santa Barbara to buy heroin, Ziesmer said.

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