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Ventura County

Teen Charged in Beating Deaths of Neighbors

Santa Paula youth is accused of bludgeoning and stabbing the couple in their bed, possibly because he coveted their Chevy Monte Carlo.

November 05, 2002|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

A 16-year-old Santa Paula boy suspected of beating a neighborhood couple to death in their bed was charged Monday with first-degree murder, burglary and robbery.

Adam Sarabia, a continuation school student who lives with his parents near the couple's home, is accused of using a baseball bat and a knife during the killings.

Despite his age, Sarabia will be tried as an adult, prosecutors said, because of the circumstances of the crime and the brutal nature of the double homicide.

John Ramirez Jr., 59, and Joann Wotkyns, 55, were found dead in their upscale Santa Paula home on Oct. 21. Blood was splattered throughout the bedroom, and autopsies determined they were bludgeoned in the head.

Sarabia, who was arrested Friday, is also charged with joy-riding in the couple's Special Edition 2001 Chevy Monte Carlo. Police believe the boy coveted the car and killed the couple for it.

Sarabia also faces three special-circumstance allegations, involving multiple murders committed during a robbery and burglary.

Those allegations would make an adult defendant subject to the death penalty. When a juvenile is involved, state law requires prosecutors to file charges in adult court.

"When a minor commits a murder that might get an adult the death penalty, then the district attorney gets no discretion," Deputy Dist. Atty. John C. West said. "We have to file in adult court."

The rule was enacted two years ago when voters approved a statewide crime initiative, Proposition 21.

Sarabia, whose name was released by authorities after he was charged as an adult, is expected to be arraigned on the charges this afternoon in Ventura County Superior Court. He remains at a juvenile detention center in Ventura.

If convicted on the charges, he could face life in prison without possibility of parole. Sarabia's defense attorney could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Police arrested the boy after investigators raided his parents' house -- just a few blocks from the victims' home -- and discovered evidence linking him to the killings, police said.

Authorities have not determined a motive besides the boy's possible desire to possess the couple's car, which was found abandoned in a nearby Kmart parking lot after the bodies were found.

Wotkyns' purse and wallet were found in the home after the slaying, but her car keys were missing, police said.

Witnesses told investigators they saw the youth driving the Chevy in Santa Paula and Ventura the day after the slayings. The car was also spotted at a mobile home park near Sarabia's house, police said.

Santa Paula Police Chief Bob Gonzales said investigators believe they can link the youth to the slayings through DNA evidence, but the tests will not be completed for a few days.

Two other Santa Paula teenagers, described by authorities as friends of the suspect, were questioned last week and one was arrested on an unrelated drug charge.

Authorities described the teens as witnesses, not possible suspects.

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