El Cajon resident connected to murder of man found in bay

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An El Cajon man was ordered July 25 to stand trial for being an accessory to murder when he allegedly provided a boat for his friend to dump his roommate’s body in a 55-gallon drum into San Diego Bay.

After two days of testimony in the preliminary hearing, Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sontag ordered Derrick Jefferson Spurgeon, 38, to trial for accessory and Timothy John Cook, 53, for murder.

An El Cajon man was ordered July 25 to stand trial for being an accessory to murder when he allegedly provided a boat for his friend to dump his roommate’s body in a 55-gallon drum into San Diego Bay.

After two days of testimony in the preliminary hearing, Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sontag ordered Derrick Jefferson Spurgeon, 38, to trial for accessory and Timothy John Cook, 53, for murder.

The body of Omar Medina, 28, was found in the drum on Oct. 12, 2017, by Harbor Police and other agencies after a diver reported it as suspicious and feared it may have toxic chemicals inside it.

Medina, who lived with Cook in Chula Vista, was stabbed 66 times. A blanket and pillowcase, with a style similar to what Cook had, were also found in the barrel. Medina, a music producer, vanished on Sept. 30, 2017.

A sheriff’s helicopter went over the property of Sturgeon in the 14000 block of Rios Canyon Road in El Cajon, taking photographs on Nov. 9.

“We were looking for a fishing boat,” said David Garber, a forensic specialist, who processes crimes scenes.

Garber told Sontag he took photos of Spurgeon’s property from the helicopter which later helped officers find a dismantled boat inside a canvas tent on his property.

The judge reviewed surveillance videos of Cook’s truck hauling Spurgeon’s boat to a marina where the white barrel can be seen faintly on the boat before launching. When two men on the boat returned, the barrel was not on it.

Spurgeon’s attorney, Roland Haddad, said the real issue is whether his client was aware a felony had been committed. He maintained his client was unaware there was a body in the barrel and his client had nothing to do with the murder.

Haddad asked unsuccessfully that Sontag dismiss the accessory charge against Spurgeon.

Kara Oien, Cook’s attorney, also asked unsuccessfully for Cook to be discharged, saying there was no evidence of blood in the house. Oien said it was not unusual for roommates to share bedding materials.

Oien said the medical examiner could not determine a date of death and that nothing links Cook to the slaying.

Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville said there was “plenty of circumstantial evidence” that both men were involved in the crime. She noted that Cook had obtained some of Medina’s banking information that showed an $80,000 balance.

Afterwards, the prosecutor said there were no missing funds to Medina’s bank account.

Somerville said Cook had done “obvious clean up” in his home as when police looked at it, the floor and parts of the walls of Medina’s bedroom were gone. The kitchen sink had been removed along with a section of flooring, according to the photos submitted as evidence.

Somerville also said Cook complained about “having problems” with Medina as a roommate. She said sufficient evidence had been shown for both defendants.

Sontag said there was enough evidence to order a trial, and both defendants pleaded not guilty at the end of the hearing. A tentative trial date was set for Oct. 1.

Spurgeon has two other pending cases against him. One involves transportation of methamphetamine, and another alleges he kidnapped a person for robbery and extortion near Lemon Grove while he was out on bond in the accessory case.

Both Cook and Spurgeon remain in jail without bail.

La Mesa man on trail for murder

Christopher James Artale, 41, of La Mesa, has been ordered to stand trial for murder in the shooting death of Aldo Alfonso Prado, 35, of National City.

Artale allegedly shot Prado in the head on Oct. 1, 2017, after the victim was attempting to do vandalism to Artale’s truck. 

Prado died in a hospital two days later.

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