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Ventura County

Defendant Told Her of Crimes, Ex-Fiancee Says

She testifies Michael Schultz admitted to raping and killing a Port Hueneme woman and to trying to destroy evidence afterward.

January 29, 2003|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

The former fiancee of murder defendant Michael Schultz testified Tuesday that he admitted raping and killing a Port Hueneme woman a decade ago, then setting fire to the dead woman's home to destroy DNA evidence.

Therresa Mooney told jurors that the conversation took place in 1999 while Schultz was serving a five-year prison sentence for assaulting a police officer.

According to Mooney, Schultz made the confession after trying to talk her into helping him break out of prison. He told her he was worried that authorities would use his DNA to tie him to a rape and slaying before he was freed.

She said she pressed him for details about the slaying, and Schultz told her the woman's name was Cynthia Burger and that the killing was in August 1993.

Burger, a 44-year-old customer-service manager at a Ventura auto dealership, was found dead on Aug. 5, 1993, inside her two-story townhouse.

"I was scared, I was hurt," Mooney said through tears on the witness stand. "I didn't know what would happen."

Mooney said she initially agreed not to tell anybody about the confession, but broke her silence about a year later because Schultz was months away from getting out of prison.

"I couldn't let him get out, no matter how much I cared about him," Mooney testified. "I knew what was right. Cynthia deserves it."

Schultz, 33, a former Ventura resident, faces one count of murder and two special-circumstance allegations -- that he killed during a rape and a burglary -- that make him eligible for the death penalty.

Prosecutors contend that Schultz broke into Burger's home and, after raping and strangling her, filled a downstairs bathtub with water, added bleach and other household chemicals, and dumped her body face-down into the tub. He thought the chemicals would destroy any semen left behind, prosecutors said.

In yet another attempt to destroy DNA, he placed a candle under the foot of Burger's bed and disabled the condo's smoke detectors, prosecutors said.

Firefighters called to Burger's burning condominium on Outlook Cove found her body in the bathtub and initially thought she had died of smoke inhalation. An autopsy later revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

The case went unsolved for six years before investigators received the tip from Mooney that led them to Schultz.

Investigators obtained a search warrant that compelled Schultz to provide a blood sample. His DNA was matched to genetic material extracted from semen found in Burger's body, according to prosecutors.

During opening statements Monday, defense attorneys said Schultz was in a methamphetamine haze during the incident. They said the attack was not premeditated, but a random act of a man on a drug-induced binge of violence.

Under questioning Tuesday by defense attorney Steve Lipson, Mooney testified that Schultz told her he was high on methamphetamine when he broke into Burger's home and that he didn't have a plan for what he was going to do once he entered the condominium.

*

Times staff writer Tracy Wilson contributed to this report.

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