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The Region | IN BRIEF / VENTURA

Jury Finds Man Guilty of Strangling Girlfriend

November 17, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

It took a Ventura County jury 2 1/2 hours Friday to convict a mentally disturbed man of second-degree murder in the strangulation of his girlfriend.

Tommy Welch, 47, of Ventura faces a minimum 45 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 4. Although second-degree murder is punishable by 15 years to life, Welch's term is expected to be tripled because of prior felony convictions.

During trial, he told jurors he accidentally killed Marsha Rockvam, 45, while they were engaged in erotic asphyxiation--being choked during sex.

But prosecutors argued that Welch broke into Rockvam's Ventura hotel room Aug. 23, 1997, and strangled her after she broke off their five-month relationship.

Welch, who suffers from a mental illness, initially pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. But he withdrew the insanity plea during trial.

At one point in the proceedings, Welch screamed at his lawyers and refused to go to court, prompting the judge to impanel a separate jury to rule on Welch's competency. That jury determined that he was competent to stand trial.

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