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Murders Ventura County

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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 20, 2001 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Justin Merriman plunged a knife into college student Katrina Montgomery's neck, and, as she begged for her life, beat her with a wrench and slit her throat, a witness testified Friday. Former skinhead Larry Nicassio told jurors that, while spending the night at Merriman's home in November 1992, he watched the defendant kill Montgomery after a brutal sexual assault.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 11, 2001 | STEVE CHAWKINS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A jury recommended Monday that Socorro Caro be put to death for killing her three sons, in what Ventura County's district attorney described as "probably the saddest case" of his 23-year tenure. As the panel's 10 women and two men filed into the hushed courtroom on their second day of deliberation, Caro, 44, sat quietly, her Bible beside her. When the verdict was read, Caro, looking pale with deep circles under her eyes, maintained her composure. She sobbed softly several minutes later.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 30, 1988 | JOHN JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Assistant Hesperia Fire Chief Will Wentworth listened incredulously as a caller complained that the noxious black smoke pouring from a nondescript building in the desert carried the sickeningly sweet smell of burning human flesh. "I don't think so, it's a ceramics shop," Wentworth replied. "Don't tell me they're not burning bodies. I was at the ovens at Auschwitz," the man said chillingly, Wentworth recalled.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 9, 2001 | From a Times Staff Writer
A 24-year-old Oxnard man died at St. John's Regional Medical Center Friday night after he was shot outside a local liquor store. Saul Rojas died less than an hour after the 8:30 p.m. shooting, said Oxnard Police Sgt. Jason Benites. Detectives interviewed several possible witnesses Saturday. As of late evening, there were no suspects.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 10, 2001 | SUE FOX, TIMES STAFF WRITER
While Jesse James Hollywood and his friends allegedly were holding a 15-year-old boy hostage for payment of what police contend was a drug debt, Hollywood called his lawyer to ask for advice. But when Simi Valley attorney Stephen Hogg picked up the phone, prosecutors say, the conversation that followed set the stage for murder.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 28, 1998 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Daughter of the devil. Incarnation of evil. A whacked-out witch on a reign of terror who makes Lizzie Borden look downright tame. Those were the descriptions of convicted killer Diana Haun that were offered in court Friday as Michael Dally's defense team continued trying to deflect the murder charges against him by blaming Haun for the 1996 slaying of his wife, Sherri. Prosecutors contend the pair conspired to kill Sherri Dally.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 28, 1997 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
They killed over custody battles or to cover up crimes. They killed for money, hiring thugs to murder rich husbands or shooting strangers for their ATM cards. But of the eight women on California's death row, none did what a jury has now decided in the case of grocery clerk Diana Haun--murdered primarily for love.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 12, 2001 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Since age 17, murder defendant Justin Merriman has spent most of his life behind bars. Now, the decision of a Ventura County jury could send him to prison for life. Or worse. Last week, jurors began deliberating whether Merriman, a 28-year-old skinhead gang member, raped and slit the throat of a 20-year-old community college student eight years ago.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 7, 2000 | TINA DIRMANN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A round of arrests and convictions in recent months has landed 11 members and associates of Ventura's largest and most violent street gang in jail, a blow that police say cripples the ability of the gang to control the streets along Ventura Avenue. Authorities say gang activity surrounding the Avenue area has dropped significantly since the arrests, largely because many of those put behind bars are senior members of the gang.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 1, 1999 | TINA DIRMANN and CAITLIN LIU, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
A 42-year-old Santa Rosa Valley mother was arrested in her hospital room Tuesday on suspicion of fatally shooting three of her young sons. Socorro "Cora" Caro, recovering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, was arrested at Los Robles Regional Medical Center at 11:45 a.m. on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder, sheriff's officials said.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 13, 2001 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
After four years behind bars, an Oxnard man serving a life sentence for murder was released Friday after the Santa Barbara County judge who sentenced him concluded that he was wrongly convicted of gunning down two men during a 1997 gang shooting. Overwhelmed and crying, Efren Cruz, 27, walked through the doors of the Santa Barbara jail and into the arms of his weeping mother.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 2, 2001 | STEVE CHAWKINS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Transported in a Ventura County Sheriff's Department bus customarily used for jail inmates, jurors Monday were taken to the opulent Mediterranean-style home where Socorro Caro is accused of shooting three of her four young sons as they slept. Charged with three counts of first-degree murder, Caro declined to accompany the party of 12 jurors, four alternates, attorneys, sheriff's deputies, an investigator for the district attorney's office, and Superior Court Judge Donald D. Coleman.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 30, 2001 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Trial dates have been postponed for a skinhead gang member and a female associate charged with murder in the 1998 slaying of a Ventura teenager. Superior Court Judge Vincent O'Neill Jr. on Friday set an April 22 trial date for Bridget Callahan, 25, of Ventura. Michael Bridgeford, 25, of Oxnard is also expected to be tried then, although his date has not yet been formalized. David Ziesmer, 28, of Oxnard is tentatively scheduled to stand trial April 22.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 22, 2001 | STEVE CHAWKINS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A Ventura Superior Court judge on Friday rejected a defense attorney's attempt to strike testimony from Socorro Caro's trial on charges she allegedly killed three of her four young sons. Judge Donald D. Coleman rebuked Caro's defense team over its prolonged effort, which entailed a special hearing squeezed into lunch hours and early-morning sessions over the course of three days.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 17, 2001 | From Times Staff Reports
A 31-year-old Oxnard man whose body was found in the Santa Monica Mountains near Point Mugu had been strangled, coroner's officials confirmed Sunday. Gabriel Gil Flores, an unemployed electrician, had been dead for about two days when his body was found about 6 p.m. Friday near Pacific View and Deer Creek roads, according to Ventura County sheriff's officials. Homicide detectives said they have no strong leads but believe that Flores was killed elsewhere.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 11, 2001 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Three teenagers charged with murder in the stoning and beating death of a homeless man are no longer eligible for the death penalty. Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox said Monday that she is amending the charges against the teens to eliminate the allegation that the killing occurred during a robbery, which would have made them eligible for the death penalty.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 27, 1993 | BARBARA MURPHY
A Santa Paula man convicted in the murder of his cousin was ordered to prison Friday for 25 years to life, despite protests by his attorney that sentencing should be delayed until the defendant's brother--the alleged killer--is brought to trial. Superior Court Judge Allan L. Steele said nothing would be gained by postponing sentencing for Jesus M. Tellez, 21.
NEWS
December 10, 1997 | TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
In an unusual legal move, a judge has ordered convicted killer Diana Haun to pay the cost of her own defense: $202,400 racked up by public defenders. Ventura County Superior Court Judge Frederick A. Jones said Monday that he also would consider forcing Haun to reimburse the state for the cost of her life prison sentence. The 36-year-old grocery clerk was convicted in September of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy for fatally stabbing her lover's wife.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 31, 2001 | STEVE CHAWKINS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Dr. Xavier Caro said he looked up the stairs at his wife. He had just come home. They had argued and he had taken a walk to cool off. But it was clear from the Smith & Wesson .38 in her hands that the fight wasn't over. "Ah-hah!" she yelled, not quite aiming the gun at him but brandishing it so he would know it was there. Xavier Caro grabbed his son Joey, jumped in his car and drove off.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 23, 2001 | STEVE CHAWKINS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Socorro Caro shot her three young sons to death in their beds nearly two years ago to punish their father for curbing her extravagant spending and threatening a divorce, a prosecutor told Ventura County jurors Wednesday. The claim was made by Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple at Ventura County Superior Court during an opening statement illustrated with blowups of the children's bodies, a computer-animated video and a wrenching 911 call from the Caro home.
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