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Defense Says Man Who Later Died of Overdose Killed Ventura Clerk

Courts: Lawyer contends wrong man was charged in the fatal shooting at a store. He says client is a drug dealer and thief, but not a killer.

April 12, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A defense lawyer told jurors Thursday that prosecutors charged the wrong man with murder in the fatal shooting of a Ventura grocery clerk last spring.

Richard Geise is a small-time drug dealer and a petty thief, but not a killer, attorney Willard Wiksell told the jury. He blamed the crime instead on a man who died of a drug overdose several months ago.

Geise, a 32-year-old former Ojai resident, is charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and several other charges stemming from the April 6, 2001, shooting at Central Market on Ventura Avenue.

Store employee Alejandro Alvarez, 35, was killed and two co-workers were injured after a pair of gunmen wearing gas masks demanded money during a midday robbery attempt and began shooting. No money was taken.

Police linked the crime to Geise and his cousin, Alfonso Delgado, after seizing weapons and ammunition similar to those used in the shooting from a Ventura hotel room where Geise was living.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Don Glynn told jurors in his opening statement Thursday that a firearm expert will testify that a shell casing found at the market "absolutely matched" a .40-caliber gun found in Geise's hotel room.

The expert will further testify that the casing, as well as ammunition seized at the hotel and at Geise's former Ojai residence, all bore the same manufacturer's stamp, Glynn said.

Beyond the physical evidence, Geise's girlfriend is expected to testify that one month before the shooting she saw the defendant tuck a gun into the waistband of his pants.

She is also expected to testify that Geise left the hotel shortly before the botched robbery, telling her: "I'm going out to make some money."

But Wiksell told jurors the case is not as obvious as it may seem.

"The prosecution has it half right," Wiksell said, telling jurors that Delgado, who was killed by police during a May shootout, was one of the masked gunmen who stormed the market.

Wiksell identified the second gunman as Sam Patterson, a friend of Delgado's, who he said went to Geise's hotel room with Delgado after the shooting. Patterson died of a drug overdose a few months later.

The defense intends to show that Delgado and Patterson were seen together in the Ventura Avenue area prior to the shooting, while Geise was across town meeting with his ex-wife about child custody issues.

Wiksell told jurors he intends to call the ex-wife as a witness, and a heroin user who he said bought drugs from Geise within an hour of the shooting.

The defense contends the drug deal explains Geise's remark to his girlfriend about making some money that day.

Wiksell said Geise would also take the stand.

Testimony got underway Thursday as the prosecution called its first witnesses, including the two injured co-workers who were staffing the cash register at Central Market the day of the shooting.

The trial in Ventura County Superior Court is expected to last several weeks.

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