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Ventura County

Teen Denies Killing Couple

A plea is entered for the 16-year-old boy, who is charged in the fatal beating of the man and woman in their Santa Paula home last month.

November 14, 2002|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

A 16-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to first-degree murder, burglary and robbery charges in connection with the fatal beating of a Santa Paula couple in their home last month.

Adam Sarabia, a continuation school student who lives a few blocks from the slain couple's home, stood behind a courtroom partition and peered at a small crowd gathered for his arraignment in Ventura County Superior Court.

Attorney Jay Johnson entered the plea on Sarabia's behalf and denied three special-circumstance allegations that the boy committed multiple killings during a robbery and burglary.

Under state law, those allegations require the district attorney to try Sarabia as an adult rather than a juvenile, prosecutors said.

Sarabia, who remains held in a juvenile facility, was ordered to return to court Jan. 15 for a preliminary hearing. If the case goes to trial and the boy is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Sarabia is accused of entering the home of John Ramirez Jr., 59, and Joann Wotkyns, 55, on Oct. 21 and killing the couple with a baseball bat and a knife as they lay in bed.

Prosecutors contend the motive was burglary. Sarabia allegedly took some possessions from the home and went joy-riding in the couple's Special Edition 2001 Chevy Monte Carlo after the slaying.

On Wednesday, Sarabia's lawyer declined to comment on the charges, saying he has not received investigative reports from the district attorney's office.

But he questioned how one person could have carried out the deadly attacks.

"From what little I know, it seems to me to be unlikely that one person could do this unless a number of things came together at once," Johnson said. "That is a question in our minds at this point."

Deputy Dist. Atty. John C. West said investigators are still gathering evidence, but feel confident that Sarabia attacked the couple on his own.

"A lot of people ask the question, 'How could a 16-year-old boy have done something like this?' " West said.

"Hitting two people with a hard object in the head is not that difficult," he said. "Based on what we have from the crime scene and statements from witnesses, we've got the person who is responsible."

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