Jurors to hear closing arguments in Burton murder trial

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The day before Michael Burton killed his wife with a samurai sword, Otilia Burton told a co-worker that her husband said he was going to kill her.

The co-worker, Dawnyell Varela, testified in Michael Burton’s murder trial Tuesday that on July 15, 2006, Otilia Burton confided in her at the Coco’s restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga where the women both worked as servers.

Otilia and Michael Burton had not shared a bed for more than a year, according to earlier testimony, since Michael Burton learned in April 2005 that his wife was having an affair.

The couple was in the midst of a bitter divorce, and Michael Burton had been sleeping on the living room couch in the couple’s Rancho Cucamonga home.

But during the night of July 14, 2006, he climbed into Otilia Burton’s bed and positioned himself next to her, according to Varela’s account Tuesday of her conversation with Otilia Burton.

Otilia Burton, 35, told Varela that Michael Burton “put his hand around her neck, squeezed, and said, ‘I’m going to kill you,’” Varela testified.

In the early morning of July 16, 2006, Michael Burton did kill his wife — by stabbing her 11 times with a samurai sword. He then tried to commit suicide.

Burton, 48, took the witness stand Tuesday following Varela’s testimony and denied ever climbing into his wife’s bed following his discovery of her affair.

On Monday, Burton testified that he was defending himself from his wife the morning she died.

Otilia Burton attacked him with a Taser, and stabbed him in the chest with a knife, Michael Burton testified.

He also testified that he can’t remember stabbing his wife, having temporarily blacked out during the incident.

Jurors are set to hear closing arguments today from the prosecutor and defense attorney. The jury is expected to begin deliberations this afternoon.

In addition to Otilia Burton’s co-worker, jurors heard testimony on Tuesday — the 11th day of testimony in Michael Burton’s murder trial — from a psychiatrist who had a session with Otilia Burton three days before her death.

Otilia Burton opened up about the problems in her marriage during the 50-minute session, the doctor, Stephen Wysocki, testified Tuesday.

“She told me she was afraid of him,” Wysocki testified.

Otilia Burton told the doctor her husband was jealous because she was having an affair, Wysocki testified.

Prior to their testimony in front of the jury, Judge Raymond L. Haight III heard Varela and Wysocki’s statements to determine which portions of their testimony would be admissible as evidence.

Wysocki testified at the earlier hearing that Otilia Burton said during the therapy session that her husband had threatened to kill her.

Haight ruled that the testimony about Michael Burton’s alleged threat was inadmissible because it was too vague, and the doctor was instructed not to mention it during his testimony in front of the jury.

But the doctor, during his testimony before the jury, mentioned the alleged threat. That prompted Michael Burton’s attorney, Winston McKesson, to move for a mistrial on the grounds that the doctor’s mention of the alleged threat was “very, very prejudicial.”

Haight denied McKesson’s motion, and admonished the jury to disregard the doctor’s testimony about Michael Burton’s alleged threat.

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Burton testifies in murder trial, claims memory loss in wife’s killing

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Michael Burton took the witness stand in his own defense today, claiming that prior to killing his wife with a samurai sword in 2006, she attacked him with a Taser and stabbed him with a kitchen knife.

Burton, a former Pasadena firefighter, also testified that he blacked out during a portion of the incident, and has no memory of inflicting his wife’s 11 stab wounds.

In two and a half hours on the witness stand today in West Valley Superior Court, Burton detailed the history of his 13-year marriage, and the July 16, 2006 incident at the couple’s Rancho Cucamonga home that ended in Otilia Burton’s death.

It was the tenth day of testimony in Burton’s murder trial, and the most dramatic, with a packed courtroom on hand as Burton, 48, defended himself from prosecutors’ allegations of murder.

Burton testified that he had been sleeping on the downstairs couch at the family’s two-story home when his wife returned from a night out at about 1:30 a.m. on July 16.

The couple had been in the midst of a bitter divorce for about a year, since Burton learned his wife was having an affair, Burton testified.

He testified that he approached his wife to speak to her about her daughter, the family’s oldest child. The girl had been away from home for about a week, Burton testified.

As the pair talked, Otilia Burton set down her purse and began digging through it, Burton said. She produced the small flashlight-sized Taser and started lunging at him with it, Burton testified.

“I’m done,” Otilia Burton said, according to Michael Burton’s testimony. “I’m through. It’s over.”

Burton wore a dark suit, gray dress shirt and dark gray tie Monday, and his demeanor was calm and precise during much of his testimony.

But during his account of the confrontation with his wife, Burton battled tears and his voice often cracked.

The pair grappled over the Taser and both fell over onto a couch, Burton testified.

He said Otilia Burton never shocked him with the Taser during the altercation, but she struck him in the ribs and stepped on his feet.

After a brief struggle over the Taser, Otilia Burton left the living room area and went to the kitchen. She reached into the drawer where the family kept kitchen knives, Michael Burton testified.

When he saw her reach for the drawer, Burton said he ran upstairs to the master bedroom and retrieved one of the two collectable samurai swords he stored under the bed.

“That was the only thing I could find to protect myself,” Burton testified.

He said he waited for his wife to come upstairs to continue her attack. Burton said he also feared his wife’s boyfriend, Matthew Huntoon, might be lurking in the area of the home with plans to aid Otilia Burton.

His wife didn’t come upstairs, so Burton said he walked slowly down the staircase holding the sword, hoping to see whether his wife’s boyfriend had entered the house.

As he neared the bottom of the staircase he said he saw his wife holding a kitchen knife.

“Otilia, what’s the matter with you?” he said he told her. Without speaking, she threw the knife at him but missed, Burton testified.

She retrieved two more knives from the kitchen and walked toward Burton, Burton testified, but dropped one of the knives before she reached him.

With the remaining knife, Burton said his wife lunged at him and stabbed him in the chest, then tried to hack at his right hand, which held the samurai sword.

Michael Burton testified that his wife lunged at him a second time with the knife — but it’s then when his memory of the incident is temporarily lost.

His next memory, Burton testified, is waking up, lying on the floor, and seeing his 35-year-old wife lying on the floor nearby, with the blade of the samurai sword lodged in her body.

“The sword was stuck in her lower abdomen area,” Burton testified.

Burton testified that he didn’t realize he had stabbed his wife 11 times until last month, as he reviewed evidence with trial date approaching.

“I didn’t want to hurt her,” Burton testified, his voice cracking. “I just wanted to stop her from stabbing me. And I care about her despite the divorce.”

In an interview following today’s hearing, two of Otilia Burton’s sisters said they believed their former brother-in-law lied on the witness stand.

“He’s not telling the whole truth,” said Claudia Villery. “… He remembers little details, but not the actual killing.”

Villery and her sister, Lisset Mosley, said they don’t believe their sister attacked Burton. They also said Otilia Burton told people she feared her husband would attack her.

Mosley said she doesn’t believe Michael Burton is remorseful for Otilia Burton’s death, despite his tears on the witness stand Monday.

“I think it might be guilt,” Mosley said. “I don’t think it’s remorse.”

In the hours after his wife died, Burton testified that he swallowed a bottle of pain pills in a suicide attempt.

“I just knew that everybody was going to be hurt” from Otilia Burton’s death, he testified.

He drifted in and out of sleep but did not succumb to the pills. Determined to kill himself, he said he went to the kitchen and took a large knife out of the dishwasher.

He cut his left wrist, slashed his neck, and again dozed off to sleep. His said his next memory of the morning was a sheriff’s department SWAT team entering his home, disarming him and lifting him onto a stretcher.

Burton’s murder trial is set to continue Tuesday, with prosecutors possibly calling witnesses to rebut the defense portion of the trial, which ended Monday afternoon.

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Ontario man gets life in prison for murdering Pomona landscaper

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RIVERSIDE — An Ontario man convicted of murdering a Pomona landscaper with a hatchet in 2004 was sentenced today to 27 years to life in state prison.

Mark Robert Peterson, 55, was sentenced in Riverside Superior Court after a judge rejected two motions from Peterson — motions to withdraw his insanity plea and for a new trial.

Prosecutors accused Peterson of killing Victor Camarillo, 58, with a hatchet on April 15, 2004 as Camarillo trimmed trees behind a Wal-Mart at 2663 Canyon Springs Parkway in Riverside.

Peterson was linked to the crime in 2007 when cold-case testing of DNA found at the scene matched Peterson’s DNA sample taken during a previous arrest, according to a Riverside Police Department news release.

The Ontario man pleaded guilty to the killing by reason of insanity, but a jury declared following a trial in July that Peterson was sane at the time of the crime.

This morning, Judge Paul E. Zellerbach rejected bids by Peterson to set aside his guilty plea and order a new trial, said Deputy Public Defender Douglas Miranda.

Zellerback then sentenced Peterson to 27 years to life in state prison, Miranda said.

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Strip-club manager Welty faces Colorado extradition in sex case

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A former strip-club manager convicted of soliciting sex with a 9-year-old girl during an undercover police sting was released from jail this week after serving the first 100 days of his 270-day jail sentence.

But Ward Ryan Welty’s legal troubles are far from over.

The former manager of Tropical Lei in Upland now faces an extradition effort from authorities in Fremont County, Colorado, where the online police sting against Welty originated.

Welty, 36, has been charged with five felonies in the rural county 100 miles south of Denver, and potentially faces a life prison sentence if convicted.

His defense attorney, Roger Diamond, argues that Welty, of Rancho Cucamonga, shouldn’t be extradited to Colorado to face charges there because he has already been convicted locally for solicitation.

The prosecution in Colorado violates that state’s double-jeopardy laws, Diamond said.

But according to San Bernardino County prosecutors, the local judge who rules on Welty’s extradition case — a hearing now set for Aug. 12 — is unlikely to consider double-jeopardy issues in making a decision.

Deputy District Attorney Jason Anderson said the purpose of an extradition hearing is to determine whether a state’s hold on a person is valid — and he said Colorado’s is, because Welty has an active criminal case there and has failed to appear.

Anderson said Diamond’s double-jeopardy argument is “very premature,” and should be considered by a Colorado court after Welty’s extradition.

Welty was arrested in June 2008 after he traveled to Fremont County allegedly expecting to meet a 29-year-old woman who said she was willing to involve her 9-year-old daughter in sex.

The woman was actually an undercover police detective who posed as the fictitious mother in a Yahoo.com chat room as part of a police sting.

When San Bernardino County sheriff’s detectives were notified of Welty’s Colorado arrest, they served search warrants on his Rancho Cucamonga apartment, Tropical Lei and other locations.

Detectives found $60,000 in steroids in Welty’s apartment they allege he was selling, as well as three child pornography images on his computers.

Welty pleaded guilty in West Valley Superior Court in February to three felony charges related to the steroids, illegal images and sex solicitation.

He was sentenced to 270 days in jail and five years’ probation, and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.

On Wednesday, a West Valley Superior Court judge ruled that Welty, having completed 100 days in jail, is now eligible to complete the balance of his sentence on weekends or through home confinement.

Welty was released from custody at 12:03 a.m. Thursday after posting a $50,000 bail bond for his extradition case, according to online sheriff’s department records.

Welty’s father, Waldon Randall Welty, is the owner of Manta Management, the parent company of Tropical Lei, the Flesh Club in San Bernardino, and the Hawaii Theatre in the City of Industry.

In prior news accounts of the Flesh Club, Ward Ryan Welty was identified alternately as the owner or manager of the club.

Diamond has said Welty has no current role in has father’s club.

For more information on Welty’s case, read the initial story on his arrest, as well as an archive of stories on the case.

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Defense-hired doctor supports Burton’s self-defense claims

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Jurors today heard a full day of testimony in Michael Burton’s murder trial that was centered primarily on one question: Was the Pasadena firefighter stabbed in the chest by his wife during the incident that ended in her death?

That is what Burton claims, and today a defense-hired doctor supported that assertion with testimony that he believes Burton’s chest wound was likely not self-inflicted, as prosecutors believe.

Prosecutors accuse Burton, 48, of murdering his wife — 35-year-old Otilia Burton — by stabbing her 11 times with a samurai sword in the couple’s Rancho Cucamonga home on July 16, 2006.

The couple of 13 years was in the midst of a bitter divorce.

Immediately following his wife’s death, Burton tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrist and slicing his neck several times.

He also suffered a single stab wound to his chest — a wound that prosecutors say was self-inflicted, and that Burton claims he suffered when his wife stabbed him.

Several members of a SWAT team that entered Burton’s house following Otilia Burton’s death testified last week that Michael Burton was stabbing himself in the chest when they entered.

Burton is scheduled to testify in his defense Monday when testimony in his murder trial resumes, said his defense attorney, Winston McKesson.

For more than an hour today in West Valley Superior Court, David Posey, the defense-hired medical expert, testified about the implications of Burton’s chest wound.

Posey testified that based on his analysis of Burton’s medical records, in-person observations of Burton’s scars and other information, he believes that Burton’s chest wound was “more likely than not” inflicted by another person.

“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know,” Posey testified.

Posey said that the location of the wound and the blade’s angle of entry indicate to him that the chest wound was not self-inflicted.

The trial prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Michele Daly, was critical of Posey’s analysis, pointing out repeatedly that the doctor did not review statements from SWAT team members who reported seeing Burton stabbing himself in the chest.

The defense attorney apparently didn’t provide Posey with the deputies’ statements.

“Should I have known it? Yes,” Posey testified.

But Posey said it would not change his opinion — based on all the information taken collectively — that Burton’s wound was likely not self-inflicted.

Burton’s 12-year-old son was called to the witness stand briefly this afternoon to reiterate his Wednesday testimony that he saw a cut on his father’s chest prior to the entry of the SWAT team.

On Wednesday, a sheriff’s detective who interviewed the boy the day of Otilia Burton’s death testified that the boy, then 9, told her that he saw a cut on his father’s shirt, not on his chest.

In his testimony today, the boy disputed the detective’s recollection of their conversation — he said he told the woman his father was shirtless, and he saw a cut on his father’s chest.

McKesson also called Burton’s brother to testify this afternoon that he found blood on the inside on the kitchen dishwasher in the Burtons’ home the day after Otilia Burton’s death.

The testimony of Burnett Burton appeared designed by McKesson to further discredit the SWAT team’s testimony about Burton’s arrest.

When the SWAT team arrested Burton, they said the dishwasher in the kitchen was up.

If the appliance was actually down — a possibility that McKesson seems to be implying — then it’s unlikely there would have been enough space in the Burtons’ narrow kitchen for the struggle between Burton and the deputies, as described by the deputies, to have taken place.

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