Trial begins for torture, murder of El Cajon woman

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A judge ordered a man to stand trial on Feb. 15 for murder with the special circumstance of torture in the slaying of Diane Spagnuolo, an El Cajon woman who was killed where she worked.

At a solemn preliminary hearing, a deputy medical examiner testified that Spagnuolo, 65, was cut or stabbed 65 times while she worked at the X-Spot bookstore at 3606 Midway Drive on Oct. 29, 2018.

Shaun Douglas Ward, 39, was ordered to stand trial for murder as well as two special circumstances of murder during a robbery and during torture.

If Ward is convicted of the special circumstance charges, he could either face the death penalty or a life term in prison. A decision on what penalty he would face has not yet been made by the District Attorney’s office.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Albert Harutunian III ordered Ward to next appear in court on March 20. Prosecutor Melissa Vasel and Ward’s attorney submitted the case to Harutunian without argument.

Spagnuolo had worked for the Midway store for 24 years and also worked for the Salvation Army, her family has said. Members of her family in East County attended the hearing.

Ward was dressed in jail clothes and stared downwards or afar without looking at any witness or anyone in the courtroom.

A detective told Harutunian a search of Ward’s home in Chollas Creek revealed a wad of money with blood on it inside his wallet, which was also stained with blood.

San Diego Police Detective Jana Beard said a search of his home yielded $300 “in a wad” with blood as well as a bloody knife and sheath that was in Ward’s backpack.

“The tip of the knife had been bent,” said Beard.

Dr. Robert Stabley, a deputy medical examiner, testified he performed an autopsy that lasted two days to document the extensive injuries.

Stabley said Spagnuolo had 17 head and neck stab or incise wounds. He said she had 45 incise wounds and 20 stab wounds overall.

Cuts to her carotid arteries were fatal, he said, but she had been stabbed in the back and had internal bleeding with wounds to organs. He said the cause of death was multiple sharp force injuries.

Ward has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail without bail.

His attorney previously suspected Ward was not mentally competent, but another judge on Jan. 23 determined Ward did understand court proceedings following a psychiatric evaluation.

Lawyer begins sentence for defrauding clients

A former La Mesa lawyer has surrendered to federal prison to start serving his 18 months for defrauding clients and investors.

Clayton Marlow Anderson Jr. was disbarred in 2015 and had been free on $50,000 bond but surrendered last month to start his term.

Anderson was ordered by U.S. District court Judge Cathy Bencivengo to pay $1,507,350 to seven individuals and a law firm as a result of his conviction for wire fraud.

Anderson pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a fraudulent investment scheme. He solicited unsecured loans from six people and paid them high rates of interest.

However, Anderson refashioned the loans into an “investment” and also pitched the investment to his legal clients. In 2012, Anderson won a $1.8 million legal settlement in a construction defect suit against the builders.

Instead of paying his clients the legal settlement, Anderson solicited them to use the funds for the investment with a 13 percent return.

Anderson admitted he violated his duties as an attorney and that he made multiple false claims, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In his plea agreement, Anderson admitted his fraud caused his clients to lose over $600,000 and the six other participants lost over $700,000 in money loaned to him.

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