Reported by City News Service:
A man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for the 1987 killing of a Santa Ana strip club owner and raping of his girlfriend in their Buena Park condo.
Richard Curtis Morris Jr., 59, was convicted April 30 of first-degree murder and was denied a chance at parole. Jurors found true special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and murder during a rape and robbery. The statute of limitations for rape had run out.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno rejected Tuesday a motion for a new trial, noting Morris' convictions for robbery in October 1978.
Attorney Martin Schwarz of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, argued that Morris' blood type did not match blood at the scene. But Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray countered that in legal briefs, saying there were two attackers and detectives linked Morris to the crime scene with DNA.
Briseno said the prosecution's DNA witness was "the best I've ever heard."
Law enforcement authorities had Morris' genetic profile because he was required to give a sample after a drunken driving arrest in Hawaii in 2007, Murray said.
Morris was convicted of killing 48-year-old James Lee Stockwell, better known as Jimmy Casino. Stockwell, who changed his last name to Casino, owned the Mustang Theater, a topless club on Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana.
Stockwell was in debt to multiple people when he was killed, Murray said.
"Theories abound" as to who conspired to have Stockwell killed, but Morris is the only person convicted, Murray said. Another man is believed to have helped Morris kill and rape the victims, according to the prosecutor.
Jimmy Casino lived a "lavish lifestyle," often borrowing money to pay debts, Murray said.
Stockwell was getting divorced and living with his 22-year-old girlfriend in a Buena Park condo when he was killed on Jan. 2, 1987, according to Murray. The two met when she was a teenager and they lived together for about four years, Murray said.
The victim and his girlfriend went to a movie with his then-10-year-old son and the boy's friend, Murray said. They got home about 11 p.m., and Stockwell let his son stay at his friend's house that night, according to Murray.
As Stockwell and his girlfriend entered their condo, they were attacked, Murray said. The two men repeatedly ordered the couple to not look at their assailants, Murray said, adding that the girlfriend did not get a good look at them.
Stockwell was tied up and put in a separate room from the girlfriend, Murray said. The men took money and jewelry and stole Stockwell's Mercedes-Benz and Chevrolet Camaro, leaving behind a Rolls-Royce in the garage, Murray said.
The two men took turns raping the girlfriend, Murray said.
Before being killed, Stockwell tried to "negotiate" with the men, Murray said. He told them he could get them money, which prompted one of the suspects to ask from which strip club, according to Murray.
Stockwell said he would take them to get cash, and the suspects tied up the girlfriend, Murray said.
The girlfriend said one of the abductors put a pillow over her head and she never the heard the gunshot that killed Stockwell. The pistol also appeared to be fitted with a silencer, he said.
The case went cold for decades until a DNA match was made.
When Morris was questioned in Hawaii in May 2008, he tried to blame the murder on a man who used a credit card stolen from Stockwell, Murray said.
As a result of the DNA match, Morris also charged in April 2010 with killing Pasadena grocery store owner Vincent Mejia on May 15, 1987.
An Orange County judge, however, dismissed that case because of a lack of jurisdiction and jurors did not hear about that case, Murray said.