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VENTURA COUNTY

Acquitted Pair Seek to Clear Names

Law: Eileen and Jennifer Childs of Simi Valley, found not guilty of trying to kill Eileen's husband, want to erase records of their arrest.

October 09, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Simi Valley woman and her teenage daughter are asking a judge to declare them "factually innocent" six weeks after they were acquitted on attempted murder and arson charges.

Prosecutors accused Eileen Childs, 38, of plotting with her daughter, Jennifer, 19, to kill her husband by setting him on fire as he slept. When Larry Childs awoke in March to find his mattress on fire, the women allegedly beat him on the head with baseball bats.

The pair were accused of trying to collect on a $1.4-million life insurance policy. But jurors found there was no solid proof of the alleged crimes and acquitted the mother and daughter on all charges.

Eileen and Jennifer Childs, who maintained they were defending themselves from Eileen's 57-year-old husband, now want a finding of factual innocence to clear their names.

"I think it is only fair to put them back to the place they were in before the fingers of suspicion were pointed at them," said Chief Deputy Public Defender Jean Farley, who filed the petition.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Lee, who is opposing the request, said "There is a huge difference between a jury finding a defendant or defendants not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and a finding of factual innocence."

Lee said such a finding requires police agencies to destroy all records related to a defendant's arrest and allows the suspect to claim he or she was never prosecuted for the crime. Such petitions are rare, Lee said, and typically pursued in cases in which a victim recants or other evidence clears the accused of wrongdoing.

"This is a far cry from that," Lee said.

The prosecutor has urged Superior Court Judge Herbert Curtis III, who presided over the Childs' trial, to deny the petition. Curtis took the matter under submission Tuesday and is expected to issue a written ruling within 90 days.

After Tuesday's hearing, Eileen Childs said her request is driven in large part by a desire to shield her teenage daughter from having to list her arrest for attempted murder on future job applications.

"I want this more for Jennifer," she said. "To be accused of attempted murder when all she did was protect her mother is just disgusting."

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