A judge ordered a 66-year-old man Feb. 24 to stand trial for murder of a La Mesa man in 1983 in yet another cold case homicide that prosecutors say was solved by DNA evidence.
After hearing testimony for three days concerning the death of William Mambro, El Cajon Superior Court Judge John Thompson said there was sufficient evidence in the preliminary hearing to hold James Mitchell Boget for murder.
Witnesses testified they saw Mambro, 43, leave an El Cajon bar with Boget on Dec. 24, 1983, and they never saw him alive again. Boget who was then 28 years old, and Mambro were drinking at Petrucelli’s, which was on E. Main Street before it closed.
One witness told Thompson she was surprised to see Boget return to Petrucelli’s many hours later wearing a blue shirt as he wore a white shirt earlier. She said she noticed the shirt change because Boget had stored his clothing and belongings at her residence as he was homeless but didn’t have a key to her apartment.
Mambro died from “probable strangulation” along with two knife wounds to his chest and abdomen which injured his liver, said Dr. Steven Campman, who read from the 1983 autopsy report.
Mambro’s nude body was found on his bedroom floor and covered up with all his bedding on top. He had defensive wounds to his hands that suggested he tried to fight back, said Campman.
The testimony of Mambro’s sister, Marie Tipple, who is now 87 years old, was videotaped because of her age. She said she went through a window at her brother’s apartment in the 9300 block of Loren Drive in La Mesa because he didn’t answer the phone and his door was locked.
She found her brother’s body underneath the bedding on Dec. 28, 1983. She said she was glad his accused killer was caught, said Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson.
La Mesa detective Ryan Gremillion testified Mambro’s sister noticed her brother’s clothing was pulled from his closet and piled onto the bed before she found his body in his ransacked apartment.
Mambro collected buffalo head nickels and two such coins from 1936 and 1937 were found in Boget’s possession when he was arrested on weapons charges several days after the murder, said Gremillion.
It was Gremillion who reviewed the cold case and asked for re-testing of cigarette butts and other items for DNA. Boget was arrested Nov. 17, 2019, in San Antonio, Texas, and brought here.
A criminalist who is a DNA expert, Byron Sonnenberg, testified two Marlboro cigarette butts found at the scene matched the DNA profile of Boget, who also smoked Marlboro.
“Can DNA survive for 38 years?” asked Erickson.
“Yes, if stored correctly. That DNA can last for a long time,” said Sonnenberg.
Sonnenberg said cigarette butts are a good object to hold DNA because the cigarette is “in contact with the mouth which is good for saliva.” He said they were frozen and preserved.
Gremillion described Boget “as the last person known to be alive with Mr. Mambro.”
Gremillion said he showed a picture of Mambro to Boget in Texas, but Boget said he “did not know him, never met him.” The detective showed a picture of the crime scene to Boget, but Boget said he “had never been there.”
Boget’s attorney, Madeleine Garber, asked Thompson unsuccessfully to dismiss the case at the end of the hearing. Boget has pleaded not guilty.
A trial date will be selected on March 17. Boget remains in the George Bailey Detention Facility on $2 million bail.