VENTURA COUNTY NEWS; PROSECUTORS WILL SEEK DEATH PENALTY IN TRIAL OF SKINHEAD MERRIMAN

VENTURA COUNTY NEWS; PROSECUTORS WILL SEEK DEATH PENALTY IN TRIAL OF SKINHEAD MERRIMAN

TRACY WILSON, TIMES STAFF WRITER, October 20, 1999, Wednesday, Ventura County Edition, Los Angeles Times

Ventura County prosecutors announced Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty for accused killer Justin Merriman in the 1992 slaying of 20-year-old college student Katrina Montgomery.

Merriman, a 27-year-old white supremacist, is accused of raping and murdering Montgomery on Nov. 28, after they met at a party in Oxnard.

According to one witness who testified before the Ventura County Grand Jury last year, Merriman took Montgomery to his Ventura home, raped her and then fatally bludgeoned and stabbed her. Merriman allegedly forced two skinhead gang members to help him dispose of the body.

Montgomery, a Santa Monica College student who attended Ventura High School, was last seen driving from the party. Although authorities recovered her blood-stained pickup truck in the Angeles National Forest the next day, her body was never found.

The investigation into Montgomery’s disappearance languished for five years until Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury authorized deputies in his office to pursue old leads.

In January, the grand jury indicted Merriman on 25 criminal counts, including two special allegations that make him eligible for the death penalty.

Bradbury’s office decided to seek the death penalty after reviewing several factors in the case, including how the killing occurred and Merriman’s criminal background–a felony conviction for resisting a jail guard several years ago.

“In light of all the circumstances, Mr. Bradbury thought the death penalty was appropriate,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Bamieh, who is prosecuting the case.

Merriman’s attorney could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the prosecution’s decision. Merriman’s trial is scheduled to begin March 27.

In addition to murder and rape charges in the Montgomery case, Merriman is accused of raping two other women, in 1994 and 1995, and resisting arrest during an armed standoff with Ventura police in February 1998.

More recently, the grand jury handed down a second indictment against Merriman for allegedly trying to threaten witnesses. Authorities say they intercepted letters that targeted grand jury witnesses, referred to as “rats,” who had assisted the prosecution.

The letters were intended to reach Merriman’s fellow skinhead gang members in the state prison system, where some witnesses are currently serving time, authorities said.

Three women, including the defendant’s 51-year-old mother, have also been indicted on conspiracy charges for allegedly working with Merriman. Two of the women have pleaded guilty and are serving yearlong jail sentences.

Beverlee Sue Merriman, the defendant’s mother, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and perjury. She is being held in lieu of $ 2 million bail. A trial is scheduled for January.

Justin Merriman, who is being held without bail, has denied all the charges against him. A judge recently prohibited his phone and visitation privileges, after prosecutors raised concerns about the defendant’s alleged threats.

stef Posted by on Oct 20 1999. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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