Mistrial for man charged with accessory to murder in bay case

Courtesy image.

A mistrial was declared on Dec. 5 for an El Cajon man after a jury deadlocked 10-2 as to whether he committed accessory to a murder after the fact by piloting a boat where his friend dumped a body in a barrel in San Diego Bay.

A status hearing for Dec. 18 was set for Derrick Spurgeon, 40, to see if he could face a second trial.

The same 10-man, two-woman jury convicted Timothy Cook, 54, of second-degree murder in the 2017 death of Cook’s roommate, Omar Medina, 28, who was found inside the 55-gallon barrel.

Cook faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. San Diego Superior Court Judge Carolyn Caietti set sentencing for Jan. 6.

Jurors began deliberations on Nov. 26 and then recessed for Thanksgiving. They deliberated four more days before saying they deadlocked on Spurgeon, but convicted Cook.

Witnesses testified there was animosity between Cook and his roommate in a Chula Vista house. Medina disappeared on Sept. 30, 2017, and was found in the barrel on Oct. 12, 2017, after two boaters reported seeing it as a navigational hazard.

Spurgeon’s attorney, Roland Haddad, argued for acquittal, saying there was no evidence that Spurgeon knew there was a body in the barrel. The boat was stored on Spurgeon’s property in El Cajon, and traffic surveillance cameras showed both Spurgeon and Cook towing the boat with the white barrel to the bay.

Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville argued that Spurgeon knew what was in the barrel and offered “to help his friend get away with murder.”

Cook’s attorney, Kara Oien, conceded that Cook found Medina’s body and put it in the barrel, but she said he didn’t know who killed him.

Medina had been stabbed 66 times, according to the county medical examiner. The walls in Medina’s room were removed in a remodel, Cook told police. The floor was also removed and the kitchen sink was missing.

The trial began Nov. 5 and lasted almost five weeks.

Spurgeon didn’t testify and both he and Cook remain in jail. Spurgeon is awaiting another trial in 2020 on charges he assaulted an East County resident.

Former sherriff’s captain pleads not-guilty to illegal firearms business

Former sheriff’s captain Marco Garmo is free on $100,000 bond after pleading not guilty to charges of operating an illegal firearms business which involved gun sales from where he used to work at the Rancho San Diego sheriff’s station.

Garmo, 52, of La Mesa, was indicted Nov. 22 on federal charges of selling firearms without a license, making false statements, and conducting firearms transactions in violation of state law.

Also charged is firearms dealer, Giovanni Tilotta, 38, and Waiel Anton, 35, both of El Cajon, with several counts of aiding and abetting Garmo’s alleged illegal firearm business.

Garmo, Tilotta and Anton have been ordered to return to U.S. District Court on Jan. 10 for motions. Tilotta and Anton have also pleaded not guilty. Anton is free on $50,000 bond and Tilotta is free on $25,000 bond.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Garmo acquired approximately 146 firearms between March 2013, and February 2019 and he sold or transferred 104 of them to others.

Leo Hamel, 62, of Jamul, who is the owner of Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, has pleaded guilty to purchasing some weapons without proper documentation. Hamel has agreed to forfeit over 200 firearms and 100,000 rounds of ammunition seized from his home on Feb. 13, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Also pleading guilty on Nov. 22 was Sheriff’s Lt. Fred Magana, 42, of Chula Vista, to aiding and abetting Garmo’s business by creating false records to conceal those purchases.

Both Hamel and Magana will be sentenced Feb. 21. Hamel is free on $250,000 bond and Magana is free on $25,000 bond.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.