A superior court judge made decisions yesterday (June 5) regarding the admissibility of evidence that defense attorneys hoped to suppress in the upcoming trial for three persons accused of killing Brittany Killgore.
The naked body of the victim was found a few days after she was declared missing, in April of 2012. The murder trial is now set to begin in September 2015.
Defendants Louis Ray Perez, 47, Dorothy Maraglino, 40, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 28, all plead not guilty to kidnapping, torturing, and murdering 22-year-old Killgore.
Certain writings made by defendant Lopez, written in a kind of cryptic script or cipher, were characterized as fantasy writings by her attorney Sloan Ostbye. The decoded writings described torture and dismemberment, and the defense protested that the content is so gruesome that it causes prejudice toward her client.
Prosecutor Patrick Espinoza argued that the writings were created before Lopez came to live with her co-defendants, and thus shows that sexual violence did exist in her mind before she came under the influence of the others. Judge K. Michael Kirkman decided to allow that evidence, but with certain redactions because the content is so “disturbing.”
A seven-page handwritten document referred to as the “PIGS READ THIS note” was objected to by defense attorneys. The evidence was found in a hotel room with Lopez and was first thought to be a suicide note; some of the message attempted to put all the blame onto one defendant and exonerate the others; the document also described where investigators could find the victim’s body.
“It is a document that very much has relevance,” the judge stated, and he denied motions to suppress it.
The judge ordered certain text messages and emails between defendants Lopez and Maraglino to be excluded. In these communications, the women apparently joked about kidnapping Louis Perez to make him go to a movie with them; part of one message was said to include: “Ma’am maybe we stage a kidnapping ROTFL.”
Attorneys asked the judge to forbid the prosecutor from mentioning anything about the notorious Manson "family" — this because Espinoza did mention the hierarchy and dominance in that infamous group in his court papers; the judge granted that request.
Maraglino was present during the first two hours but was absent for the remainder of the daylong hearing. She has made requests on several occasions to be excused from sitting in the courtroom, and her attorney repeated that request today. Maraglino is currently represented by Jane Kinsey, the fourth defense attorney for Maraglino since she was arrested in 2012.
Espinoza has charged all three defendants with first-degree murder, plus special allegations of kidnap, torture, and conspiracy. Last December, San Diego County district attorney Bonnie Dumanis decided that all three defendants would be spared the possibility of the death penalty, should anyone eventually be found guilty.
Perez, who is advised by attorney Brad Patton, appeared today with full beard and glasses. During the past two years, Perez has kept his head lowered in court, looking down steadily at the tabletop in front of him. In contrast, during his first year of court appearances, Perez appeared more confident, perhaps even defiant.
Reportedly, defense attorneys have made requests to separate the defendants and hold three separate trials instead of one, but the judge has not addressed that request yet.
The next court date is set for June 26, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista, California.