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Trial Underway in Bludgeoning Death of Couple

Prosecutor says a Santa Paula teen killed the pair so he could drive their fancy sports car.

March 03, 2004|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

Armed with fingerprints, DNA test results and a pile of other physical evidence, a prosecutor Tuesday said he would prove that a 17-year-old Santa Paula boy bludgeoned a married couple to death so he could drive their fancy sports car.

At the start of Adam Sarabia's trial, prosecutor Richard Simon said that the 2002 slayings of John Ramirez and Joann Wotkyns were so vicious that the victims' blood splattered on Sarabia's clothes, shoes and the murder weapon, a Little League baseball bat.

"All of the evidence will show that the defendant is guilty of two counts of first-degree murder," Simon said in his opening remarks in Ventura County Superior Court.

Sarabia, a baby-faced teen who sat stoically through the first day of the anticipated weeklong trial, has pleaded not guilty to murder, robbery, burglary and a special circumstance of committing multiple murders. He is being tried as an adult.

If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. His parents, Eva and Fermin, have hired Ventura defense attorney Jay Johnson to represent their son. On Tuesday, the couple sat together in the gallery, two rows behind the teenager.

To introduce his case, Simon told Judge Edward Brodie, who will decide the case without a jury, that DNA found on Sarabia's blue sweatshirt matched that of both victims.

Additionally, fibers from the couple's clothing and from Sarabia's sweatshirt matched those found on the bat, which was found in Sarabia's garage. Pieces of the bat were found embedded in Wotkyns' skull.

Ramirez, 59, and Wotkyns, 55, who worked together for many years at a Camarillo computer tape company, were found dead inside their upscale Santa Paula home about 9 p.m. Oct. 21, 2002.

Authorities believe Sarabia, who lived nearby, slipped in through an unlocked door late the night before or early that morning and beat and stabbed the couple while they slept in their upstairs bedroom.

Authorities believe that Sarabia then stole Ramirez's cell phone and went for a joy ride in the couple's 2001 Special Edition Monte Carlo, described by Simon as a NASCAR pace car.

At a preliminary hearing a year ago, three boys testified that they rode around in the car with Sarabia, who was then 16, and smoked marijuana while showing off the vehicle to girls. The car was found at a Santa Paula Kmart parking lot later on Oct. 21.

Simon said that fingerprints found on the car matched Sarabia's and that the cell phone was found at his house. Sarabia wore the blood-splattered sweatshirt to a police station for an interview with detectives, Simon said.

Johnson, as is common in criminal trials, reserved his opening statement for later. He made a few objections to graphic crime scene photos offered into evidence and declined to comment outside of court on his defense strategy.

On Monday, Brodie granted Johnson's request to forgo a jury trial because of the gruesome nature of the crime scene photos.

Santa Paula Police Det. Ish Cordero testified that during an inspection of the couple's home he found two bloody kitchen knives, one in the couple's bedroom and another in the kitchen sink. Neither knife, Cordero said during cross-examination, was large enough to cause the amount of bleeding he saw.

Trial was to resume this morning with testimony from a medical examiner. Simon said he expected to wrap up the prosecution's case by Monday.

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