A judge set a March 12 preliminary hearing on Jan. 7 for an El Cajon man accused of killing his roommate in a group home by hitting him over the head with a frying pan.
Brad Masaru Payton, 26, has pleaded not guilty to the Dec. 20 murder of Michael McCarthy. McCarthy was injured at 4:50 a.m. in an independent living facility in the 1200 block of Naranca Avenue in El Cajon.
El Cajon Police responded to a 911 call of a person bleeding inside the facility. McCarthy was taken to a hospital by Heartland Fire paramedics, but he later died.
Police said Payton and McCarthy lived in separate rooms within the facility, but the two of them were arguing just before McCarthy was injured.
McCarthy’s parents told KNSD (Channel 7) their son was staying at the group home because he was developmentally disabled. The facts of the case have not yet been discussed in El Cajon Superior Court, said the prosecutor.
Payton remains in jail on $2 million bail.
Man stands trial for murder of wife
A former Jamul man was ordered Jan. 9 to stand trial for the murder of his wife who was found off a hiking trail in Jamul in 2017.
Winnie Perry Whitby III, 49, is charged with killing Melissa Whitby, 49, whose body was found in the 15800 block of Skyline Truck Trail on Jan. 7, 2017.
Sheriff’s deputy Alexander Ferguson testified in the preliminary hearing that two people who were visiting the area from out of state came across the remains of Melissa Whitby.
Deputy Pablo Betancourt testified the victim’s last cellphone use pinged off a cellphone tower in the Casa de Oro area, and other deputies found her Toyota Corolla parked in the 9900 block of Buena Vista Drive.
Detective Christi Ramirez told El Cajon Superior Court Judge Daniel Lamborn there was some blood found on the Toyota bumper and brake lights. The car was searched and the victim’s purse, wallet, car keys and phone were found inside the vehicle.
The blood on the car came from Melissa Whitby, according to a stipulation agreed to in court by Deputy District Attorney Jessica Paugh and defense attorney Kathleen Lee.
Detective William Clem testified that Winnie Whitby told him his wife went to see a movie before she disappeared, and he went on a motorcycle ride.
“They lived in separate rooms,” said Clem of what Whitby told him. “He thought she may be cheating on him.”
Jennifer Aultman, a friend of Winnie Whitby who appeared in court with a therapy dog, testified he told her “they got into an argument” before she died.
Aultman told the judge Winnie Whitby found his wife injured at a site they had selected for a picnic. She said he told her his wife later died.
“He was not invited to her funeral,” said Aultman. “He did not like her family.”
After a long investigation, Whitby was arrested Oct. 30, 2018, in Goldsboro, Maryland, where he had relocated, and he was extradited here.
Lamborn ordered Whitby to return to court Jan. 24 to set a trial date. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail without bail.
Carjacker sentenced, victim forgives
A carjacker who stabbed a rideshare driver in El Cajon was sentenced Jan. 8 to 16 years in prison.
Damon Van Thomas, 37, of Lemon Grove, apologized to the victim before he was sentenced by Judge Robert Amador after pleading guilty to carjacking, robbery and auto theft.
The victim, Ferman Kawany, told Thomas earlier he had forgiven him despite being stabbed in the chest in the July 10 incident. He urged Thomas to never hurt someone else again.
“My religion taught me to forgive,” said Kawany. “I am Muslim and I respect all religions.”
Amador gave Thomas credit for serving 221 days in jail.
The maximum sentence he could have received was 35 years to life because he had prior convictions for burglary and grand theft firearm, said Deputy District Attorney Jim Koerber.