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Ventura County

Homicide Case Back in Court

Ruling: Appellate panel rejects dismissal of charges in 1993 slaying of a Port Hueneme woman.


A state appellate court Monday overturned a judge's dismissal of an 9-year-old homicide case, potentially reinstating charges against former Ventura resident Michael Schultz.

The ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal is significant because the dismissal could have prevented Ventura County prosecutors from pursuing the case. The court decision takes effect in 30 days, if no rehearing is requested.

Schultz, 33, is accused of raping and strangling Cynthia Burger, 44, during a burglary in her Port Hueneme home in August 1993. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

"These dismissals are important to us because the law says if there's two dismissals, we're done," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Schwartz. "It's a very serious case, and it should go to trial. It should not be dismissed on some technicality."

In February, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Art Gutierrez threw out a new set of charges against Schultz, saying prosecutors made a procedural error.

That decision came weeks after a Santa Barbara judge set aside an October 2000 murder indictment against Schultz. In that ruling, Superior Court Judge Frank J. Ochoa said the county grand jury had included too few women and didn't reflect a fair cross-section of the community as required by law.

Schultz's attorney, Chief Assistant Public Defender Michael McMahon, said he was disappointed by the appellate court ruling. He plans to petition the California Supreme Court to hear the case.

Schultz has been in Ventura County Jail for two years without bail, McMahon said, and has yet to have a preliminary hearing.

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