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Teen Found Guilty in 2 Deaths

A judge convicts Adam Sarabia, 17, of fatally beating and stabbing the Santa Paula couple before taking their car for a joy ride.

March 10, 2004|Lynne Barnes | Times Staff Writer

Saying the "level of violence was just mind-boggling," a Ventura County judge Tuesday convicted a 17-year-old Santa Paula boy of fatally beating and slashing a couple before stealing their car for a joy ride.

Adam Sarabia, who was 16 at the time of the slayings, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the October 2002 deaths of Santa Paula residents John Ramirez, 59, and Joann Wotkyns, 55.

Sarabia showed no emotion as Superior Court Judge Edward Brodie pronounced the verdict, only 30 minutes after prosecution and defense attorneys finished their closing arguments. Sarabia opted for a trial by judge.

As the youth left the courtroom, he never turned to look at his parents, who sat quietly in the second row.

Also present were about two dozen relatives, friends and former co-workers of the victims. Both had been longtime employees of Imation, a Camarillo computer tape company.

Before he delivered his verdict, Brodie told spectators, "It's clearly a circumstantial-evidence case, but a stronger circumstantial-evidence case I have never seen."

Authorities believe that Sarabia, a continuation school student who lived a few blocks from the couple, entered their home through an unlocked garage door late Oct. 20 or early Oct. 21.

Finding the couple in their bed, he beat them with a baseball bat and stabbed them with two knives.

The youth left with Wotkyns' phone and car, which he drove for less than a day before an anti-theft system was accidentally activated. He then ditched it in a store parking lot.

Sarabia was charged as an adult in the slayings.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Sarabia's attorney, Jay Johnson, had suggested that a second person took part in the attack.

"There is no doubt that these persons were senselessly and brutally murdered," he said, but questioned whether Sarabia could have killed Wotkyns, based on the lack of her blood on his shoes and the fact that her attacker appeared to be left-handed.

In his rebuttal, however, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Simon pointed out that the same weapon was used to beat both victims to death.

"Two killers don't use the same weapon," he said.

Brodie apparently agreed, finding Sarabia guilty of first-degree murder in both deaths, with the special allegations that they occurred during a burglary and robbery.

Sarabia will be sentenced June 7.

The judge could sentence Sarabia to terms ranging from 29 years to life, or to life without the possibility of parole.

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