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Ventura County

Man Admits on Tape to Role in Deadly Beating

Crime: Jury listens to confession of Ramiro Salgado, accused in the slaying of a Ventura teenager. Defense says police manipulated him.

April 12, 2002|STEVE CHAWKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Ventura jury on Thursday heard a 22-year-old man admit in a taped interview with detectives that he took part in the fatal beating of Ventura Theatre stagehand William Zara.

In a recording made just before his arrest two years ago, Ramiro Salgado nervously confessed to being among the 10 or so assailants who stabbed Zara, beat him, bludgeoned him with a shovel and slammed him with a baseball bat on the night of Sept. 25, 1999, in Ventura.

The assailants mistakenly thought Zara, 18, had complained to police about a loud party they were having. Charged with taking part in a gang-related murder, Salgado faces the possibility of life in prison.

Four others--Benny Lopez, Terry Paul Schell, Frank Olvera and Rosana Olvera--have been convicted in the attack and are serving life terms.

Salgado said he kicked Zara in the back twice as he was kneeling on the ground and trying to shield his face from the angry crowd.

"I stomped him," he told Ventura police detectives Dennis Fitzgerald and Pat Stevens. "I'll take the blame for that."

Salgado's attorney contends that the detectives tricked his client, manipulating him into confessing acts he did not commit. Questioning Stevens in court Thursday, Richard Loftus suggested that the investigators lied to Salgado when they told him that other suspects had implicated him.

Stevens denied being deceptive.

In the two-hour interview at Ventura's police headquarters, Salgado initially denied any involvement in the attack. But as the detectives questioned him, he admitted he might have boasted to others about things he hadn't done. Finally, he said he had kicked Zara.

However, Salgado emphatically denied stabbing the youth, despite the officers' claims that witnesses heard him bragging about it.

"If I said that, it was a lie," Salgado told the detectives. "I wouldn't stick him. I wouldn't kill nobody--that's not my style."

A minute later, Salgado shifted again, volunteering to confess to a stabbing he said he didn't commit rather than point police to the person who did it.

"I'll take the blame for it," he said. "I won't rat on nobody."

The former fast-food worker was sweating heavily during the taping and said he had been using heroin for about six months. He asked the officers whether he would be given medication in jail to ease his withdrawal symptoms.

As they slipped handcuffs on him, Salgado said he felt betrayed.

We're just doing our jobs, Stevens told him, saying they were under orders from their boss.

"We're just worker bees here," said the 27-year police veteran. "I'm a peon. I wear a suit, but I'm still a peon."

Salgado's trial is expected to last two weeks.

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