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Iraq veteran charged in slaying of girlfriend

Ex-soldier is accused in the San Clemente beating death.

September 04, 2008|Tony Barboza | Times Staff Writer

An Iraq war veteran accused of beating his girlfriend to death in his San Clemente condo was charged Wednesday with murder.

John Wylie Needham, 25, was arrested late Monday after Orange County sheriff's deputies found his 19-year-old girlfriend, Jacqwelyn Joann Villagomez, in his bedroom severely beaten. She died a few hours later.

Needham answered the door naked and had to be subdued with a Taser after deputies responded to a report of an argument at the upscale condo complex, authorities said.

Needham, who was wounded in combat while serving in the Army in Iraq, returned with severe mental problems, his family said. "I'm falling apart by the seams," he wrote in a post on his MySpace page.

Needham was awarded a Purple Heart for a combat injury last year, which left him with shrapnel in his legs and back. He had been hospitalized and medicated and consulted with therapists. Family members said they knew he was struggling but didn't foresee him turning violent.

Villagomez was an aspiring model who grew up in Turlock, in the Central Valley, and graduated from El Toro High School in Lake Forest.

Needham is being held in lieu of $1-million bail and is set to be arraigned Sept. 26.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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