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Couple's Killer Is Given Life Term

Adam Sarabia deserves to die for 2002 slayings in Santa Paula, 'but this is the best we could get' because he was 16 at the time, a prosecutor says.

September 23, 2004|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

A Santa Paula teenager, convicted in March of fatally beating and slashing a couple before stealing their car for a joy ride, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Adam Sarabia, 18, was given the maximum sentence for the murders of John Ramirez and Joanne Wotkyns, slain two years ago in their Santa Paula home. Because Sarabia was 16 at the time of the killings, he was not eligible for the death penalty.

"This was the most brutal, vicious crime I have ever seen," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Simon. "Death would have been a fitting punishment ... but this is the best we could get."

Ramirez, 59, and Wotkyns, 55, were found dead in the upstairs bedroom of their home Oct. 21, 2002.

Authorities argued that Sarabia, a baby-faced continuation school student who lived a few blocks from the couple, entered their home through an unlocked garage door. Finding the couple in bed, he beat them with a baseball bat and stabbed them.

Authorities believed Sarabia killed the couple so he could take their Chevrolet Monte Carlo for a joy ride. The youth drove the car for less than a day before an anti-theft system was accidentally activated. He then ditched it in a store parking lot.

Prosecutors presented evidence linking Sarabia to the crime, including that Wotkyns' cellphone was found in his possession, his fingerprints were found in the car and fibers from the couple's clothing and from Sarabia's sweatshirt matched those found on the bat, which was found in Sarabia's garage.

Sarabia showed no emotion Wednesday as Ventura County Superior Court Judge Edward Brodie announced the sentence, a day after Sarabia turned 18.

"There's some closure for the families, knowing he has no hope of ever getting out and that he has nothing to look forward to except life in prison," Simon said. "It doesn't bring anybody back, but it's at least something."

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