Articles Tagged with murder

Society has struggled with how to deal with the most deviant criminals for centuries. The question of justice becomes more complex than ever when juvenile offenders are involved.  Sadly, it’s a dilemma that is more and more frequently upon us: 

  • 17-year-old Jonathan Rojas is accused of engaging in a shooting spree that killed one person and wounded another in Greenfield, California;
  • A 14-year-old and a 16-year-old are accused of firing into a stopped vehicle, killing the driver and wounding a passenger, in what is believed to be a gang shooting in Los Angeles, California;
  • A juvenile has been charged with murder following reports of a family disturbance in Culver City, California;
  • A 14-year-old has been arrested in connection with a murder in Boyle Heights, California, and is suspected to have participated in no fewer than six additional homicides.
  • A 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with the murder of a Japantown security guard in San Francisco, California;
  • Four teens were arrested and charged with murder after the fatal gang-related shooting of a 16-year-old in Escondido, California.

Clearly, teens are connected to serious crimes more and more of late, with some facing penalties in the juvenile system, and others being tried as adults. 

Why Teens Commit Serious Crimes

Unquestionably, the depravity of these cases and others like it is stunning. It leads us, as a society, to ask how we should address children who engage in such activity. Perhaps we start by trying to come to some understanding of who teen killers are and the multifaceted environments that often produce them.

In a recent study, researchers concluded that oftentimes, young offenders grow up in homes in what they call disordered neighborhoods. These children generally have easy access to firearms and frequently have extensive exposure to violence during their formative years. Consequently, their compromised home lives drive young people to behave in foolish, passionate ways, reacting to the situations they find themselves in.  They fail to process their actions in relation to potential consequences. Rather than the myth of the “super predator teen,” researchers believe reckless morality-stripped teens are born of treacherous family and neighborhood norms.

 That, combined with myriad research surmising that the human brain does not fully develop until roughly age 25, leads to some of the horrendous criminal outcomes we see involving juveniles and is precisely the reason the Supreme Court cited as it eliminated the death penalty for juveniles in 2005, and why a sentence of life without parole is only rarely handed down to juvenile offenders still today.

The Teen Brain and Criminal Penalties

Further studies confirm what is quite obvious to the casual observer: teens crave peer approval and pursue reckless actions in their quest for that approval. Combine this with the inability to balance risk and reward, along with a shaky personal history, and you wind up with juveniles in the criminal justice system. These facts make it imperative that the expectations for teen criminals are tempered when facing courtrooms and justice systems designed with adults in mind. That is not to minimize the anguish of victims; it simply recognizes the reality of the science behind teen behavior. Continue reading

While leaving a Vegas boxing match on the Strip, rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot nearly three decades ago. In the years following the murder, Duane Keith Davis acknowledged that he had been in the car when another unnamed passenger took aim and shot the rapper, but authorities were unable to use that confession at the time. That is because the information was offered in a proffer agreement—meaning suspect Davis provided the detail in order to assist in an investigation with the understanding that it could not be used as evidence against him. More recently, though, Davis’ media comments led to renewed interest in the case, and investigators ultimately got the evidence they needed to secure an indictment.  

The Indictment

The investigation took on a new life about five years ago and uncovered evidence that led to the arrest and grand jury indictment of Davis. Prosecutors contend that Tupac’s murder occurred in retaliation for a physical attack that Tupac and some of his Death Row Records unleashed on Davis’ nephew earlier in the day. Within hours of that attack, Davis had planned and pulled off the murder of Tupac Shakur. 

The Case

The violence 27 years ago was rooted in gang conflicts that arose in Compton, California, according to police.  Shakur was a member of a gang named Mob Piru, which had issues with the Southside Compton Crips, with whom Davis was associated.  With both men and their associates in Vegas to see the Mike Tyson/Bruce Seldon match-up at the MGM Grand, a chance encounter between a group of Death Row Records execs and Davis’ nephew in the MGM led to a physical altercation initiated by Tupac and friends. News of his nephew’s attack reached Davis, who straightaway came up with a plan to get a gun to get revenge. 

Davis and his entourage got into a white Cadillac, and the gun was given to a passenger in the. Then they sought their nemesis, pulled up next to a black BMW, and shot Shakur repeatedly. Six days later, Shakur was dead after four bullets led to irreparable damage. There is no indication of who pulled the trigger, but the indictment clearly called out Davis as the one who organized the deadly events that night.

The Charges  

Murder charges involving a deadly weapon are serious in their own right, and a gang enhancement could add another twenty years to Davis’ sentence. Thus, a guilty verdict could put the 60-year-old defendant behind bars for the rest of his life.  Continue reading

More murders occur in California than in any other state. Some attribute the high population and dense living as the major contributors to this statistic, but, for whatever reason, the state leads in murders. Additionally, a lot of those murders are unsolved.  There are cold cases going back over four decades to the tune of 41,000—a number that is startling, to say the least. 

The Famous Case of Natalie Wood

One of the most famous unsolved murders in California is that of actress Natalie Wood. Wood’s husband, actor Robert Wagner, was the key person of interest in the case, but was later cleared.  Wood’s cause of death was originally deemed drowning but was later amended to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” She disappeared while out boating with her husband and another friend, actor Christopher Walken. The two men corroborated that Wood had gone out on a dinghy to party hop among boats, leaving the final facts related to her death unknown to this day. 

The Zodiac Killer

California’s Zodiac Killer taunted law enforcement for decades, and still has not been identified. The infamous serial killer was known for sending cryptic messages to police and the press along with graphic accounts of his crimes back in the 60’s. He is definitely connected to five murders, though he claims to have killed up to 37. Known for targeting couples, the megalomaniac loved to create fear through his villainous acts, and claimed responsibility for murders after the fact.  The FBI says the case is still open, though who is on the suspect list we do not know for sure.

The Doodler

In the 70s the San Francisco area was terrorized by a notorious serial killer dubbed the Doodler.  Known to target gay men, the Doodler often stalked his victims in gay bars. There, he sketched his quarry and then showed the drawing to his prey. That is how he struck up a relationship, only to ultimately kill the unsuspecting man. The case has been unsolved for decades, in part because the gay community had no trust for police during the Doodler’s reign of terror. Now, a $200,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the killer, who is believed to be in his 70s and still living in California. Police believe they know who the culprit is based on new DNA technology, but do not know where he is. Continue reading

If you paid any attention at all to the trial of Alex Murdaugh, you already know that cell phone data had quite an impact on the outcome. In addition to video taken from the victim’s cell phone that proved Murdaugh was in the vicinity of the murders at the time they occurred, cell phone data also exposed the movements of Murdaugh and his victims and the time frame in which that movement occurred. It may lead some to wonder just how much police can discover and use cell phones during the investigation of a crime. 

Phones Aid Police Investigations

Expert testimony in the Murdaugh trial revealed that a single device could generate up to 9,000 pages of information from a set time period. The types of things that cell phones might be used for in a given criminal investigation are numerous, with this list of a dozen uses for starters:

  • Phones can provide investigators with contacts, frequently visited locations, etc., that could provide leads;
  • The phone’s GPS can be used to locate suspects;
  • Phones can be pinged by cell towers to determine their general location;
  • A person’s cell phone can be linked to a precise location at a certain time;
  • A phone’s movements, as well as the number of steps taken by the person carrying it, can be tracked;
  • Data related to phone calls can be preserved;
  • The time that facial recognition was activated can be determined;
  • The times that the phone was picked up and set down are recorded;
  • Social media posts can be retrieved;
  • Data searches can be recovered (such as how to slowly poison someone, for example);
  • Investigators can discover with whom calls occurred and the duration of those calls;
  • Text messages, emails, and photos can all be retrieved.

Getting Their Hands on Data

There are many ways in which police can tap into phone data:

  • With a person’s permission;
  • With a judge’s order; 
  • With a subpoena.

To get a subpoena, police must show that they have probable cause to suspect that data on the phone will connect to a crime. The number of criminals who are convicted of crimes in part due to cell phone data increases by the day. Civil rights watchers note that there is a gray area around obtaining such data, however, noting that hundreds of monthly requests for tracking in real-time are made to the largest carriers of wireless plans. Are innocent people at risk of having their privacy invaded? The courts have not said a lot on that topic.

Other Ways Cell Phones Help

Who doesn’t have a cell phone these days? That means the public has the ability to report crimes the second they occur. Even people who are hesitant to interact directly with police make use of anonymous tip lines, often available for texts and/or calls. Another great use of cell phones:  people everywhere video crimes are in progress. Continue reading

Wisconsin has been the center of media attention and unrest with the recent verdict of the Kyle Rittenhouse case followed by the Christmas parade that was terrorized by a motorist. According to reports, Darrel Brooks was charged with an attack on parade-goers who were attending a Christmas parade in Waukesha, WI. As a result of his arrest, he was held on bail at $5 million. On Tuesday, November 23, Brooks came to his first court appearance. 

What Was the Aftermath of the Massacre in Waukesha?

It has been reported that as a result of allegedly driving his car into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, WI, Darrel Brooks killed at least six people and injured 62 individuals. The state of Wisconsin does not have a statute for the death penalty, but each person who succumbed to their injuries will count toward a homicide charge. In Wisconsin, homicide can be life in prison with no potential for parole.

Brooks was stated to have a long criminal record before the incident in Waukesha took place. Even with police barricades set up, Brooks is said to have driven his car through the crowd that came to see the Christmas parade and participate in it. Two officers attempted, unsuccessfully, to stop the vehicle from mowing down the crowd. The vehicle that Brooks used was a red Ford Escape SUV.

When seen in his first court appearance, it was noted that Brooks appeared regretful and sad about his actions. Authorities have mentioned that the incident did not appear to be a terroristic threat.

Because his bail is so high, it is not expected that he will be able to pay it, and because of this, he is going to stay behind bars. Should a conviction happen, the most likely result is life in prison. 

There is no doubt that Darrel Brooks has a tall hill to climb to overcome his charges. While his case is egregious in nature, he still deserves his day in court. Having a smart and skilled legal defense may secure the best possible outcome. Often, the quality and experience of a person’s legal counsel are what makes the difference between the harshest penalties and those that are more sustainable.

If you have been charged with homicide in California, you may face many years behind bars if not life, and extremely high fines. Also, it is possible that victims’ families may bring civil suits against you and that can come with a hefty price tag if they win their case. The aftermath of a murder charge in California is very serious and can be life-altering. Having the right legal defense representing your best interests can be pivotal to how your case turns out. Continue reading

The terms ‘murder’ and ‘homicide’ are sometimes used interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. In the legal world, however, the meanings of ‘murder’ and ‘homicide’ are quite different. Because of this, the way that a person is sentenced if they are convicted of murder or homicide will vary.

The one thing these two terms have in common is that whether a murder or a homicide was committed, the outcome is the same. Another person loses their life. Murder and homicide are some of the most serious crimes that go to court. These criminal acts often result in the harshest penalties.

If you live in or around the greater San Diego area and you were arrested for allegedly killing another person, it is in your best interest to immediately connect with a San Diego homicide attorney. Working with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney will improve your chances of beating your charges or having them lessened. 

A man was sentenced to life in prison without parole after he shot and killed another man. The victim, age 21, was a Navy sailor who took the time to offer help to a motorist he thought was stuck on the freeway on October 27, 2018. The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in February. The details of the shooting involved the defendant fleeing the scene of a vehicle break-in gone wrong. He tried to break into a car located in the Mount Hope area when the owner pulled out a gun. A shootout ensued and resulted in the defendant, along with his brother and two other individuals fleeing.

The assailant’s car suffered flat tires during the escape, which left it stranded on a San Diego freeway. When the victim saw the stranded car, he pulled over to help. The defendant and his group did not realize the victim was acting as a good samaritan and thought instead that he was the individual that they engaged in a shootout with from their earlier vehicle break-in attempt. The shooting happened on Interstate 15 in Logan Heights.

What was the Response of the San Diego Superior Court after the Shooting?

The San Diego Superior Court held that there was strong evidence that the defendant was the main actor in the crime. The judge also commented on the remarkable character of the victim. His mother wrote a letter for the court and it was read aloud before the sentencing decision was made public by Deputy District Attorney. The letter talked about the love the victim’s mother had for him, what an enthusiastic person he was, and how full of life he was. His mother also indicated that her son is at peace and that his killer will no longer be able to continue committing crimes against the public. 

The defendant did speak at his sentencing hearing, where he said he was sorry to the victim’s family. He tried to explain that he was not a cold-hearted person. His life in prison without parole also came with an additional 25 years in prison for his initial crime of attempting to rob the car owner in Mount Hope of the contents held within a Chevrolet Tahoe and then engaging in a shootout with the car owner. 

When the shootout took place, it was not confirmed whether the defendant or the owner of the Tahoe shot first, but there was evidence in the victim’s house of a shooting taking place; bullets discharged from the defendant’s semi-automatic pistol were found in a toy located in a child’s bedroom. His brother, who was also implicated in the shooting death of the victim, was sentenced on the same day and received 13 years in prison. Continue reading

On August 28 at 12:30 a.m., Chula Vista police were called about a body in the street. When they arrived at the scene, 33-year-old Laura Rodriguez was found dead. Her body was located near Shasta and 2nd street, 10 miles south of San Diego. According to Chula Vista Police Department Lt. Dan Peak, Rodriguez was found naked with head trauma. Lt. Peak said that her death was suspicious. 


Rodriguez is survived by two daughters aged 12 and 14. A GoFundMe page has been established to raise money for her funeral expenses. The page has accumulated close to $18,000, surpassing its goal of $16,000. According to the GoFundMe page, Rodriguez enjoyed hiking and biking and was a dedicated mother. She was a person who cared about others and was always there to help those in need.


Investigators indicated that they did not find any evidence that Rodriguez was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Her body was also void of gunshot wounds or stabbing injuries. Officers who arrived at the scene did attempt life-saving measures to save the young woman but to no avail. She was pronounced dead at the scene. 


Rodriguez’s brother, Daniel, identified his sister as the victim during an interview with Fox San Diego. He asked anyone with information to please contact the police. A local resident has said that he heard the noise of an engine revving prior to Rodriguez’s body being discovered. A tow truck took a gray Chevy from the crime scene.


San Diego Violent Crime Rate


In 2018, the San Diego general crime rate was 1.3 times lower than the national average. That year, San Diego’s violent crime rate was 211.3 while the national average was 207.3 making it notably higher than much of the country. This is a significant increase from 2017, when the city’s violent crime rate was 8.6 times smaller than the national average’s violent crime rate. San Diego’s crime rate was 70.4% higher than in other cities in the country. For the past five years, the city of San Diego’s violent crime rate has been trending up while property crimes have been decreasing.


Violent crime includes homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. In just the first half of 2019, San Diego law enforcement reported on average 31 violent crimes every day.

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Scott Peterson became a well-known name when he was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife Laci in 2002. He was facing the death penalty for the murder. Recently, the California Supreme Court overturned his death penalty sentence. According to Justice Leondra Kruger, the trial judge dismissed jurors who were opposed to capital punishment. Discharging prospective jurors was not the right course of action. What should have happened is that these individuals should have been questioned further on their views.


The highest court in the state still maintained the guilty verdict of Peterson’s trial and indicated that prosecutors retained the ability to retry him for the death penalty. Not only did Peterson bring up the unfair removal of some jurors, but he also said that the immense amount of publicity that was put on his case before he went to trial precluded fairness. His trial was actually moved to San Mateo County because a judge said that there was no way he could see a fair trial if it took place in Modesto. Peterson’s lawyer said that there still was no fairness in San Mateo County, where a substantial number of jurors interviewed said that they believed he was guilty. For this reason, his trial should have been moved again to an area where there was not such rampant bias.


Despite the arguments surrounding the trial’s publicity, the court said that it would be difficult to find an area that had not already heard about the case so continually moving it would not have made a difference. The amount of attention that Peterson’s trial received was on the level of O.J. Simpson and the Manson family. 


Prosecutors are determining what course of action to take. They have not come to a decision on whether they will try him again for the death penalty or just allow him to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. One of the considerations that is going to factor into their decision will be the opinions of Laci’s family.


The Disappearance of Laci Peterson


Laci Peterson was 27 and only a month away from her due date when she went missing on Christmas Eve. According to Scott Peterson, he was fishing in Berkeley at the time of her disappearance. A search for her went on for four months, until a portion of her body and that of her unborn son was spotted by a passerby who was out on a walk. They were found on the rocky shore only a few miles from the location Scott Peterson said he was fishing. Laci’s family was supportive of Scott initially, not suspecting him. But when his mistress, Amber Frey came forward and admitted that she was dating him, that changed. Scott appeared to try to flee but authorities found him in San Diego county with bleached hair and $15,000, where they arrested him.

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There are those who would not have sentenced Betty Broderick to prison and those who believe her sentence was just and that prison time was deserved. In 2017, Betty had the chance at parole but was denied. Betty never refuted that she shot her ex-husband and his young wife, but she did explain that she was a battered woman at the hands of her ex-husband and she committed the murders when her life circumstances became so overwhelming that she snapped. There have been numerous television shows and movies inspired by the crime.


What is Betty Broderick’s Story?


In 1965, Betty and Dan Broderick met during a Notre Dame football weekend in South Bend, Indiana. At the time of their meeting, Dan was a senior in college and Betty attended an all-girls Catholic school in the Bronx. While Dan was living at school, Betty lived at home with her family. Dan was immediately taken with the pretty young blonde and was in constant communication with her. According to Betty, they were very similar and both had the same dreams for their future, including enhanced social status and a large family. 


In 1969 Dan and Betty married, and by 1970 they became new parents to their daughter, Kimberly. Dan attended medical school and then pursued a law degree at Harvard Law School. In 1971, the couple moved to Massachusetts and had their second daughter, Lee. By 1973, Dan was hired at a Law Firm in San Diego, California, and moved to a beautiful beachfront community. The couple then went on to have more children, Daniel in 1976 and Rhett in 1979.


The Brodericks lived a luxurious life of country clubs and vacations, their children went to private schools and they appeared to have the perfect existence. But they argued quite frequently and sometimes the fights were violent. The children’s home life was volatile. In 1983 Dan hired a young legal assistant, Linda Kolkena, who looked strikingly similar to Betty in her younger years. After working together, Dan had an affair with Linda.


Betty found out about the indiscretions of her husband and eventually, after a tumultuous multi-year process, divorced him. Dan and Linda went on to marry. More turbulent times ensued between Betty and Dan. Betty was bent on revenge and broke into the home of Dan and his new wife Linda, where she shot both of them while they slept.

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