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El Toro Marine

A military court has set aside the death sentence of a former El Toro Marine convicted of killing his pregnant wife in their apartment on the base. Sgt. Joseph L. Thomas was on death row at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., when the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that the trial judge improperly told the jury to vote on a death sentence before considering lesser penalties, the Navy Times reported.
May 21, 2011 | Jim Newton
In Southern California, there's nothing like a very large piece of real estate to cause discord. And the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is nothing if not a large piece of real estate. Ever since the military decided to unload the base in the 1990s, Orange County residents have been bickering over what to do with the land, and the decision in 2005 to turn it into the Great Park hasn't ended the conflict. But first the history. Even before the military moved out, county residents divided into two bitterly opposing camps: those who supported using the site for a commercial airport and those who envisioned it as a vast and impressive park.
May 21, 1987
An El Toro Marine who was injured in a car accident Monday died Wednesday afternoon, officials said. Paul Martin, 22, died at 1:23 p.m. at Mission Community Hospital in Mission Viejo, where he was taken and reported in critical condition after the accident, said Ken Daily, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. Martin was a passenger in a car driven by Eric Carpenter.
November 30, 2009 | Michael Hiltzik
The first memory Emile Haddad has of what would become the site of the Orange County Great Park and the location of his biggest development project dates from 1986, not long after he and his family fled their home in Lebanon. Then it was still the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, and as he tried to make a phone call from the roadside the quiet was shattered by the sound of an F/A-18 fighter jet screaming overhead. Haddad, 51, had grown up amid the nearly constant bloodshed of a sectarian Beirut, and his first instinct was to hit the ground.
November 16, 1995 | THAO HUA, TIMES STAFF WRITER
An El Toro Marine was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and manslaughter Wednesday, after the truck he was driving careened off the Orange Freeway and plunged down a 100-foot embankment, killing a 21-year-old passenger. Rodney Williams, 22, apparently of Texas, and Donald Zuber, 21, of Placentia, were going home from a country music concert in San Bernardino when the truck struck a curb on the Orange Freeway near Bastanchury Road, California Highway Patrol officials said.
January 13, 1986 | Gary Jarlson
A Marine Corps pilot from El Toro is missing and presumed dead after his plane disappeared on a flight over the Mediterranean Sea, according to officials. Maj. John N. Summerlin, 38, apparently crashed after having taken off from the aircraft carrier Coral Sea off the coast of France. Summerlin's FA-18 Hornet was on a routine training mission when it vanished Wednesday in bad weather. A search for the missing plane was called off Thursday.
September 13, 1996 | From Associated Press
When Col. James Sabow was found dead of a shotgun blast at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, the military said it was a simple case of a man killing himself to avoid embarrassment. But his brother, a South Dakota neurosurgeon, says he can prove it was murder--one of dozens of cases where family members allege that sloppy or fraudulent military investigations led to rulings of self-inflicted deaths. "These notions are not the delusions of despondent relatives.
June 6, 1993
Larry Agran ("Time Is Now to Create El Toro Plan," May 28) has ably articulated a most important agenda for Orange County's future--that of planning and building a "fixed guideway" (light or urban rail) system in the county, and planning for intelligent people-serving land use adjacent to the associated rail stations. The proposed transit system is one that will provide a clean, efficient, comfortable and aesthetic alternative for mobility in the county, and eventually inter-county, for commuters, students, leisure travelers and others.
November 9, 1988 | LAURA KURTZMAN, Times Staff Writer
A military jury sentenced an El Toro Marine to death Tuesday for bludgeoning his pregnant, 24-year-old wife with a tire iron, then trying to disguise the murder in a dramatic car crash to collect $50,000 in life insurance. "Sgt. Joseph L. Thomas . . . this court-martial sentences you to be put to death," the jury foreman, Lt. Col. R.C. Kurth, said as a gasp went up in the courtroom, along with a piercing cry from Thomas' first wife, Muriel. "May God have mercy on us all."
January 18, 1989 | LUCILLE RENWICK, Times Staff Writer
An El Toro Marine sergeant has been charged with the premeditated murder of his wife last May, a Marine spokeswoman announced Tuesday. Gunnery Sgt. Murray D. Payne of Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, will appear Thursday at a preliminary hearing, Sgt. Deborah Bragagnini said.
September 13, 2008 | Tony Barboza, Times Staff Writer
A lawsuit filed Friday alleges that the developer responsible for building homes and businesses on the former El Toro Marine base in Irvine reneged on an agreement to commit 73 acres for a cemetery. Forest Lawn sued various entities of Lennar Corp., saying that executives of the housing giant told it last month that they had "moved on" from a plan to have the cemetery group build and run a memorial park, cemetery and mortuary, in violation of a 2004 written agreement. Since 2004, the suit states, Forest Lawn has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in architectural, design and engineering costs and worked with Lennar to obtain city approvals to build the memorial park.
June 20, 2007 | David Reyes, Times Staff Writer
For months, mammoth grinders have been busily chewing up what little remains of the old El Toro Marine base. But instead of trucking tons of wood and glass from hangars and barracks to the county landfill, Irvine-based Tierra Verde Industries is in the midst of an extraordinary recycling project: reducing 300,000 tons of Marine history to mulch and topsoil.
March 21, 2007 | David Reyes, Times Staff Writer
When the work crews started pulling down the old buildings and barracks at the closed El Toro Marine base, they expected to find old appliances, faucets and hardware that, if they were lucky, might be worth salvaging. But the unexpected turned up: a painting of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, mess hall recipes calling for pounds of butter for shortbread cookies, faded photographs and street signs bearing the names of fabled military battles such as Inchon and Midway.
January 26, 2007 | Roy Rivenburg, Times Staff Writer
Orange County's Great Park will begin taking shape this summer with helium balloon rides and the digging of a massive canyon, according to a proposal unveiled Thursday. At a meeting of the park's board of directors at Irvine City Hall, park architect Ken Smith outlined the first two years of his plan for 1,350 acres of the former El Toro Marine Corps base.
March 10, 2006 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Cal State Fullerton has renewed the lease on its satellite campus at the former El Toro Marine base through June 2007, officials announced Thursday. The 9.5-acre campus serves about 3,000 students from southern Orange County and has operated since 2002. The new lease, which takes effect July 1, increases the university's monthly rent from $48,164 to $49,609, university spokeswoman Paula Selleck said. Home builder Lennar Corp., which bought most of base in an auction last year, is the landlord.
January 25, 2006 | Dana Parsons
So they were serious about a great park for Orange County, after all? It wasn't just a drawn-out charade to make sure nobody built a giant airport on the old El Toro Marine base? Oh, we of little vision. I'm told this is a great moment in the county's history; consider me duly informed. Two days ago, seven board members of the Great Park Corp. selected a New York landscape architect to design a park that already is being thought of -- at least, by the board -- in grandiose terms.
January 30, 1989 | CARLA RIVERA, Times Staff Writer
The Orange County district attorney's office is reconsidering its decision not to prosecute two Cal State Fullerton football players in the beating death of an El Toro Marine last April after the release of a military report, which recommends that charges be filed. The district attorney's office had originally found insufficient evidence to press charges against the football players, calling the death of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Richard W. Bottjer an "excusable homicide."
Orange County may have improperly spent more than $800,000 in highly restricted John Wayne Airport funds to pay contractors at the former El Toro Marine base, documents show. Two management firms were paid the money since July, although it appears from county records that their airport-related tasks had ended and most of what they were entrusted to manage was a few recreation programs: a golf course, horse stables, officers' club, a child care center, swimming pool and an RV storage lot.
August 24, 2005 | Jean O. Pasco, Times Staff Writer
The Orange County Board of Supervisors, which once was split on whether the former El Toro Marine base should be developed as a commercial airport, now wants a hand in governing redevelopment of the base as the Great Park. The board on Tuesday asked that its chairman, Bill Campbell, be appointed to the board of the Orange County Great Park Corp., a quasi-governmental agency overseen by a panel that consists of the five Irvine City Council members and four public members.
July 13, 2005 | Daniel Yi, Times Staff Writer
The closed El Toro Marine base officially became private property Tuesday as Lennar Corp., which won the 3,700-acre former military airfield in an auction in February, closed escrow with the Navy. The nation's third largest home builder also signed a development agreement with the city of Irvine, which annexed the base in 2003 and named its redevelopment plan the Orange County Great Park.
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