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Sheriff will review unsolved homicides, checking for links to man accused of killing four in South Bay

December 20, 2010 |  5:21 pm

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Monday that it will review old unsolved homicide cases to determine whether any are linked to a man accused of four home invasion killings this fall in the South Bay.

The move came amid questions raised by The Times about how John Wesley Ewell was able to stay out of jail at the time of the killings even though he had recently been convicted of second-degree burglary for stealing from a Home Depot store.

Court records show that a judge allowed Ewell to twice postpone the start of a 32-month prison sentence for the theft so that he could undergo surgery. Ewell allegedly killed the four people during that delay. He has pleaded not guilty.

Documents reviewed by The Times show that Ewell had sought similar delays in two previous criminal cases.

In 1989, a judge turned down his written request for a two-week postponement so that he could attend to family matters after he was convicted of robbery.

In April 1995, court records show, Ewell pleaded guilty to check forgery in return for a seven-year prison sentence, but his formal sentencing was delayed for two years while he underwent treatment for back problems.

In that case, Ewell told a probation officer that he had three herniated discs in his lower back, a pinched nerve in his left leg and partial paralysis of his left front calf. Included in the court case file are records showing that Ewell was treated for lower back pain at Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center before he was finally sentenced in June 1997.

Sheriff’s homicide Det. Stephan P. Rubino said the department would assign a crime analyst to review homicides during that two-year period in the 1990s to see whether any appeared similar to the ones in which Ewell is now accused.

“We’ll take a look at that time to see if there is anything else we need to look at,” Rubino said.

-- Richard Winton and Jack Leonard

READ THE DOCUMENTS: Read court documents from all of John Wesley Ewell's three strikes cases.

Click to learn more about the alleged victims of John Ewell Homicide Report: Read about Ewell's alleged victims