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Murder suspects hop fence near Carlsbad lagoon – updated 12-6-21

Death from 142 cuts – see author update in Comments

Ted saw the man and woman jump the fence at the gate.
Ted saw the man and woman jump the fence at the gate.

Ted said, “I got a phone call from my girlfriend.” It was just after 9 on a Monday morning.

Ted said he stood up and turned away from his computer and looked out the window. “Just out of the corner of my eye I saw two people hop over the fence. In a flash. And go into the bushes. And I said to her, I just saw two people hop over the fence and they’re in the protected area.”

Ted's view of Carlsbad lagoon from his upstairs window. "I knew in my mind they were up to no good."

Ted lives in a two-story home overlooking the lagoon in Carlsbad. The wild area around the lagoon is just steps from his home on Park Drive, and there is a chain link fence protecting the nature preserve.

He only got a fleeting look at one man and one woman that morning two years ago, on March 11, 2019. “So I just happened to see them literally for two seconds.” The pair quickly crossed Park Drive before they cleared the six-foot fence. “Really fast. And just dive into the bushes.” Neither person hesitated, the man did not pause to help the woman over. “They went over the fence at the same time, she was on the right, he was on the left.”

Ted was impressed. “I can tell you, I’m a Marine officer, and I’ve gone over a lot of fences, training; they went over that fence so fast. It wasn’t like, you see some guy who’s kind of overweight straddling the fence, trying to get his balance. It was like BOOM.”

It made Ted suspicious. “They were up to no good, I knew in my mind they were up to no good, nobody does that.”

Ted's girlfriend asked him, What are they doing? He told her they were crawling around, “Cause I can see the tops of the bushes going like this.” (When he testified in court two months after the incident, Ted motioned with his hands, waving back and forth.) “And the bushes are fifteen feet tall. And I can see right in there so I know they’re crawling. And she said, Well what do you think? I said, Well, I’m just going to call the cops, I’ll call you back.”

Female cop has suspect at gunpoint.

The police quickly came to Ted’s house. “I took them upstairs, and the one officer he said, Well where are they? And I said, I’ll show you exactly where they are! Right there. So he says, are you sure? Yeah I’m sure.” The cop told him to stay there, and to yell if the suspects made a run for it. “So I said okay. So I waited, he came back pretty quick with, like, a bunch of cops.” The police hopped the fence. “Right there in the corner. That’s the only part where there’s a gate, right there.” That gate is always locked.

“And then I saw a female officer walk down the fence line, she kept looking at me, she had her blue gloves on.” Ted stayed on his balcony while he directed the policewoman. She travelled maybe 30 yards in from the fence.

Ted signaled the cops with his hands, he did not use the phone and he did not yell out. He demonstrated his hand gestures in court, go this way, a little further, a little further, and then stop. Ted said he took video of the arrest and gave it to cops.

Ian Bushee in court (judge ordered face obscured).

When Ted testified at a pre-trial hearing in May 2019, he identified two people, the defendants in the courtroom. “That’s him and that’s her. Her hair was a little more disheveled. And he looks about the same.”

Ian Forrester Bushee, now 39, is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall and 215 pounds.

Malissa Deanna James, now 28, is described as 5 feet 1 inch tall and 150 pounds. When they arrested her, police noticed that Malissa James had electrical tape wrapped around her right thumb. When they looked they saw a deep cut there.

Malissa James had cut on her thumb.

Both defendants are charged with multiple burglaries and the murder of a 63-year-old woman. The deceased woman was apparently surprised in her bedroom late Sunday night, approximately nine hours before two suspects were spotted by Ted returning to their encampment at the lagoon. They were arrested just a short walk from the crime scene on Outrigger Lane.

A prosecutor said the victim was first attacked on her bed, then on the floor next to her bed. Apparently she was able to make it out onto her back deck where the attack resumed, and finally the gravely wounded woman crawled back to the foot of her bed where she dialed 911 for help. This scenario was deduced from a blood trail, the prosecutor said this included blood smears from the victim and blood droplets from her attacker.

A doctor who performed the autopsy testified that the woman slowly bled to death from 142 cuts and stabs, most less than four inches deep. The doctor said that no single wound would have been fatal, but altogether the total blood loss was not survivable. A small folding knife believed to be the deadly weapon was recovered in the woman’s home in the 1800 block of Outrigger Lane.

Prosecutor Nicole Rooney said that Ian Bushee and Malissa James are transients, and they have previously acted together to commit crimes in San Bernardino County and Arizona. Their prior arrests were for burglaries and shoplifting, and when they were arrested in San Diego County they were both on multiple probations.

Prosecutor Rooney claimed the pair committed a prior burglary one year earlier, in which Malissa James reportedly confronted the homeowner after he unexpectedly returned to his house in Rancho Cucamonga. That man said Malissa James walked towards him holding a kind of arrow in her hands, while he was standing in his front yard, and she fled only after he cocked the pistol he held. That homeowner said that Ian Bushee had already bolted out of his home, and fled, before the female burglar exited his home and approached him.

The defense attorney for Ian Bushee insisted that Bushee was not the one who stabbed the woman to death on Outrigger Lane in Carlsbad. Although police found many blood droplets which DNA-matched to Malissa James, there was no DNA nor any other evidence showing that Bushee was ever in that home, according to his defense attorney John Patterson.

Honorable judge Brad Weinreb ordered both defendants to answer multiple charges at trial, and held without bail, at the end of a hearing in May of 2019. Their current date for trial, which is eligible as a death penalty case, is set for March 25, 2021.

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Ted saw the man and woman jump the fence at the gate.
Ted saw the man and woman jump the fence at the gate.

Ted said, “I got a phone call from my girlfriend.” It was just after 9 on a Monday morning.

Ted said he stood up and turned away from his computer and looked out the window. “Just out of the corner of my eye I saw two people hop over the fence. In a flash. And go into the bushes. And I said to her, I just saw two people hop over the fence and they’re in the protected area.”

Ted's view of Carlsbad lagoon from his upstairs window. "I knew in my mind they were up to no good."

Ted lives in a two-story home overlooking the lagoon in Carlsbad. The wild area around the lagoon is just steps from his home on Park Drive, and there is a chain link fence protecting the nature preserve.

He only got a fleeting look at one man and one woman that morning two years ago, on March 11, 2019. “So I just happened to see them literally for two seconds.” The pair quickly crossed Park Drive before they cleared the six-foot fence. “Really fast. And just dive into the bushes.” Neither person hesitated, the man did not pause to help the woman over. “They went over the fence at the same time, she was on the right, he was on the left.”

Ted was impressed. “I can tell you, I’m a Marine officer, and I’ve gone over a lot of fences, training; they went over that fence so fast. It wasn’t like, you see some guy who’s kind of overweight straddling the fence, trying to get his balance. It was like BOOM.”

It made Ted suspicious. “They were up to no good, I knew in my mind they were up to no good, nobody does that.”

Ted's girlfriend asked him, What are they doing? He told her they were crawling around, “Cause I can see the tops of the bushes going like this.” (When he testified in court two months after the incident, Ted motioned with his hands, waving back and forth.) “And the bushes are fifteen feet tall. And I can see right in there so I know they’re crawling. And she said, Well what do you think? I said, Well, I’m just going to call the cops, I’ll call you back.”

Female cop has suspect at gunpoint.

The police quickly came to Ted’s house. “I took them upstairs, and the one officer he said, Well where are they? And I said, I’ll show you exactly where they are! Right there. So he says, are you sure? Yeah I’m sure.” The cop told him to stay there, and to yell if the suspects made a run for it. “So I said okay. So I waited, he came back pretty quick with, like, a bunch of cops.” The police hopped the fence. “Right there in the corner. That’s the only part where there’s a gate, right there.” That gate is always locked.

“And then I saw a female officer walk down the fence line, she kept looking at me, she had her blue gloves on.” Ted stayed on his balcony while he directed the policewoman. She travelled maybe 30 yards in from the fence.

Ted signaled the cops with his hands, he did not use the phone and he did not yell out. He demonstrated his hand gestures in court, go this way, a little further, a little further, and then stop. Ted said he took video of the arrest and gave it to cops.

Ian Bushee in court (judge ordered face obscured).

When Ted testified at a pre-trial hearing in May 2019, he identified two people, the defendants in the courtroom. “That’s him and that’s her. Her hair was a little more disheveled. And he looks about the same.”

Ian Forrester Bushee, now 39, is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall and 215 pounds.

Malissa Deanna James, now 28, is described as 5 feet 1 inch tall and 150 pounds. When they arrested her, police noticed that Malissa James had electrical tape wrapped around her right thumb. When they looked they saw a deep cut there.

Malissa James had cut on her thumb.

Both defendants are charged with multiple burglaries and the murder of a 63-year-old woman. The deceased woman was apparently surprised in her bedroom late Sunday night, approximately nine hours before two suspects were spotted by Ted returning to their encampment at the lagoon. They were arrested just a short walk from the crime scene on Outrigger Lane.

A prosecutor said the victim was first attacked on her bed, then on the floor next to her bed. Apparently she was able to make it out onto her back deck where the attack resumed, and finally the gravely wounded woman crawled back to the foot of her bed where she dialed 911 for help. This scenario was deduced from a blood trail, the prosecutor said this included blood smears from the victim and blood droplets from her attacker.

A doctor who performed the autopsy testified that the woman slowly bled to death from 142 cuts and stabs, most less than four inches deep. The doctor said that no single wound would have been fatal, but altogether the total blood loss was not survivable. A small folding knife believed to be the deadly weapon was recovered in the woman’s home in the 1800 block of Outrigger Lane.

Prosecutor Nicole Rooney said that Ian Bushee and Malissa James are transients, and they have previously acted together to commit crimes in San Bernardino County and Arizona. Their prior arrests were for burglaries and shoplifting, and when they were arrested in San Diego County they were both on multiple probations.

Prosecutor Rooney claimed the pair committed a prior burglary one year earlier, in which Malissa James reportedly confronted the homeowner after he unexpectedly returned to his house in Rancho Cucamonga. That man said Malissa James walked towards him holding a kind of arrow in her hands, while he was standing in his front yard, and she fled only after he cocked the pistol he held. That homeowner said that Ian Bushee had already bolted out of his home, and fled, before the female burglar exited his home and approached him.

The defense attorney for Ian Bushee insisted that Bushee was not the one who stabbed the woman to death on Outrigger Lane in Carlsbad. Although police found many blood droplets which DNA-matched to Malissa James, there was no DNA nor any other evidence showing that Bushee was ever in that home, according to his defense attorney John Patterson.

Honorable judge Brad Weinreb ordered both defendants to answer multiple charges at trial, and held without bail, at the end of a hearing in May of 2019. Their current date for trial, which is eligible as a death penalty case, is set for March 25, 2021.

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This morning Honorable judge Amalia Meza recused herself from this case, then she assigned it to Hon. judge Carlos Armour. This in response to a demand by Daniel Segura, the defense attorney for Malissa James, he protested that judge Meza is married to a District Attorneys’ investigator. Segura is challenging investigative methods used by the District Attorney, and others, in this case.

April 29, 2021

At a hearing Thursday, June 10, 2021, it was revealed that Nicole Rooney was no longer part of the prosecution team. Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell said that April 23 “was her last day” working for the District Attorney’s office. Mitchell declined to elaborate when approached later with questions.

Honorable judge Robert J. Kearney is now hearing this death penalty case, and he will next hear from attorneys on July 30. It has not yet been decided if there might be two different trials, or one trial with two juries, or one trial with one jury, for this two-defendant case.

The expected trial date of September 2 was set aside, and a new date to begin jury selection was chosen, January 31, 2022.

Prosecutor Bill Mitchell said he expected he could present all his evidence in one week. However, defense attorney Dan Segura predicted the trial could last “months” because there will be a guilt phase, and then possibly a sentencing phase to decide on the death penalty or not.

Defendant Malissa James made statements to Carlsbad police officers who were wearing bodycams when she was arrested, and she later made statements during a police interview, and she apparently made incriminating statements while speaking with her brother through a video-chat system in jail, according to attorneys. Her defense attorney Dan Segura is expected to make efforts to supress this evidence.

After today’s hearing was over, Ian Bushee was escorted out of the room by a deputy, and he met eyes with his former girlfriend while she was still seated at her defense table near the exit door. She quickly called out, “I love you!” But Ian Bushee was not able to respond before he went through the door. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/users/p...

June 10, 2021

Since they were arrested more than two years ago, in March of 2019, both defendants have seen their lead attorneys changed, and the judge who was assigned their trial has changed, and the prosecutor has changed.

Also, District Attorney Summer Stephan made the decision that Ian Forrester Bushee, 39, will not face a possible Death Penalty, but his co-defendant Malissa Deanna James, 29, does face the possibility of the Death Penalty if she is convicted. Murder during burglary and murder during robbery, mayhem, and torture all make this a special circumstance case. Both defendants plead not-guilty.

Honorable judge Robert Kearney has been hearing pre-trial motions since Hon. judge Amalia Meza recused herself (the exact reason is unclear, although judge Meza has made it known she is married to a District Attorney’s investigator).

Prosecutor Nicole Rooney withdrew from the case in April 2021, and she is no longer with the San Diego DA’s office. Senior prosecutor Bill Mitchell is now the only prosecutor, and he declined to give details of Rooney’s departure.

Daniel Segura was recently selected as a Superior Court judge by California Governor Gavin Newsom, Segura was sworn to the bench last week. Second defense chair Lindsay Itzhaki is now counsel for defendant Malissa James until the Public Defenders’ office assigns a new senior attorney.

Matt Mohun now leads the defense team for Ian Bushee, and John Patterson is second chair.

The expected trial date of late January 2022 has not been changed, so far. It appears the two defendants will be tried together, their cases will not be separated into different trials. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/users/p...

Sept. 17, 2021

Malissa James, 29, admitted murdering 63-year-old Marjorie Ellen Gawitt, after James went inside the victim’s home during a burglary in 2019. The surprise plea deal was revealed during a court hearing the morning of Friday, November 19, 2021. James is expected to avoid the death penalty by her plea deal, instead getting life in prison without parole when she is sentenced in three months, in February of 2022. Gawitt was stabbed to death about midnight in her own home, a condo on Outrigger Lane in Carlsbad, overnight from March 10 to 11, in 2019. The family of Marjorie Gawitt may choose to speak at the sentencing to make “victim impact statements.” The co-defendant, Ian Bushee, 39, is still facing all charges, and his next court date is set for January 28, 2022.

Dec. 6, 2021

Today Malissa Deanna James, 29, was sentenced to Life in prison without possibility of parole plus one year. In her plea deal last November, James admitted burglary and robbery and torture as well as murder. A dozen different family members and loved ones spoke to Hon. judge Robert Kearney, some expressed anger and disappointment that James escaped the death penalty with her plea deal. Supporters of the murder victim filled more than half the gallery in the courtroom. James’ mother and brother were also in the room, but they chose not to speak. While Malissa James sat at the defense table, handcuffed to her waist chains and with her ankles chained to each other, her neck and ears often blushed red while speakers warmly described Marjorie Gawitt and decried the evil of her murderer. Co-defendant Ian Forrester Bushee, 39, still faces all charges and is expected in the courthouse next month. His defense attorneys are expected to bring Malissa James back from prison to testify on behalf of her former boyfriend, during his trial.

Feb. 4, 2022

The fiance of the murdered woman spoke, revealing they had romantic plans to be married in Paris. He was shaking while he held onto the podium in court, and he often spoke directly and angrily at Malissa James. He was the only speaker to whom Malissa faced, she turned in her seat and looked at him several times. “You walked into my house, Malissa, and took a knife and carved her up!” He became loud and Malissa turned pink again. “This is not a human!” He said, “By the way, you weren’t just homeless, you were running from the law!” He told her, “I cleaned up the mess. Days of wiping off evidence stickers, and the blood.” It was so horrible, he couldn’t even let any of his local friends see it. “I cleaned up the goddamn blood!”

Feb. 4, 2022

According to a pre-sentencing report, Malissa James was born in Kingman Arizona in 1992. She was arrested in Camp Verde Arizona in 2012 for possession of meth for sale. She was next arrested in 2017 in Peoria Arizona for shoplifting, at that time she had her two young children with her, and heroin paraphernalia in her backpack. She was arrested in 2018 in San Bernardino California for first degree burglary, she was released just five months before she killed Marjorie Gawitt.

When she was arrested by Carlsbad police, Malissa James reportedly said that she did “crazy shit” when she is drunk so that is why she did not get drunk anymore, especially off liquor. (However, toxicology reports found meth but no alcohol in Malissa James.)

Malissa James reportedly admitted she went into the victim’s home through a back door, and when she saw Marjorie Gawitt in her bedroom, Gawitt asked who she was. Malissa James said she got “scared” and “hit” the victim with her knife, although she didn’t know how many times she “thought it was a lot.” http://www.sandiegoreader.com/users/p...

Feb. 4, 2022

One thing I don't see mentioned is what has happened and will now happen to the defendant's kids. Will they grow up knowing their mother was a murderer? Will they be reminded of just what she did and how she did it? Let's hope this plea deal sends her to the joint to die there. As it stands, because she pled guilty, there's no appealing the sentence.

Feb. 6, 2022

Malissa Deanna James, now 29, was admitted into the Central California Women’s facility in Chowchilla two months ago, on March 16, 2022. The inmate locator website states she was sentenced to life without parole and so she is “Not eligible for parole consideration at this time.” Her co-defendant, Ian Forrester Bushee, is still facing all charges. If this case goes to trial his attorneys are expected to call Malissa Deanna James to the witness box, to testify on Bushee’s behalf. Bushee, now 40, is next expected in San Diego’s North County superior courthouse in Vista on June 2 to set a date for trial.

May 24, 2022

Ian Bushee was in court this morning, June 13 2022. He apparently is resisting any suggestions from his defense attorney to negotiate a plea deal, Bushee apparently wants a jury trial August 22, 2022, in San Diego's Superior courthouse in Vista, California. The judge warned Bushee, on the record, that he could be sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole if he is convicted of all the charges. Bushee responded that he did understand and that he wanted to go to trial. It is not known if Bushee intends to testify in his own defense.

June 13, 2022

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