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Man Accused of '79 Slaying of Teen Blames 'Freeway Killer'

The death of a Costa Mesa boy, 13 was the work of William Bonin, who murdered 14 around the same time, defense attorneys say.

March 17, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for convicted child molester James Lee Crummel, who is awaiting trial for allegedly murdering a Costa Mesa teenager in 1979, asked a Riverside County judge Monday to allow them to present new evidence that implicates another suspect: "Freeway Killer" William Bonin.

Crummel has been charged with killing 13-year-old James "Jamie" Trotter, who disappeared on his way to school as he walked to a Costa Mesa bus stop.

In 1990, Crummel told authorities that he had found a pile of bones while hiking in the Cleveland National Forest; five years later the bones were identified as Trotter's. Crummel was charged with the slaying in 1997, but his trial had been delayed because he was facing other charges.

In a motion filed Monday, Crummel's attorneys said that one of Bonin's accomplices told several people that Bonin had admitted killing Trotter.

Bonin was convicted of killing 14 boys and young men in 1979 and 1980 in Orange and Los Angeles counties, picking up some of the boys near bus stops and dumping their bodies along deserted roads. He was executed in 1996.

"Many cops have already said there were many similarities about the way [Trotter] was killed and the way Bonin operated," said Mary Ann Galante, the Riverside County public defender representing Crummel.

Judge Dennis A. McConaghy is scheduled to hear the motion Monday.

Galante said James Munro, who is serving a life sentence for assisting Bonin in the 1980 murder of hitchhiker Steven Wells, has told at least five people during a 22-year span that Bonin killed Trotter during his murder spree.

This will be the second time Crummel's attorneys have asked a judge to allow the Bonin evidence to be presented to a jury. The first motion was rejected.

Bill Mitchell, the deputy district attorney prosecuting Crummel, declined to comment about next week's hearing or the case in general.

Law enforcement authorities have said they have a solid case against Crummel and that the Trotter slaying fit Crummel's pattern of violence against boys.

He has been convicted of sex crimes against children in four states since the 1960s. He was convicted of murdering a 9-year-old boy in Arizona in 1983, but he won a new trial and pleaded guilty to kidnapping.

In 1997, Crummel was arrested at his Newport Beach home on suspicion of molesting three teenagers at his Big Bear Lake condominium in 1988. In 1999, he was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison for molesting a teenage boy who lived at a home for troubled youths and was being treated by Crummel's former roommate, a psychiatrist.

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