Inmates accused of killing prisoner they mistook for molester
Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in the trial of five Orange County inmates accused of brutally beating another inmate because they thought he was a child molester, officials said.
Jared Louis Petrovich, 27, of Tustin; Miguel Guillen, 48, and Raul Villafana, 24, both of Santa Ana; and Garrett Eugene Aguilar, 28, and Stephen Paul Carlstrom, 42, both of Anaheim, face felony murder charges in the Oct. 5, 2006, death of John Chamberlain just days after Chamberlain was transferred to the Theo Lacy Detention Facility in Orange.
Prosecutors said the five men were part of two prison groups who planned and carried out the killing because they believed Chamberlain was a child molester. He was awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of possession of child pornography.
A special criminal grand jury convened in May 2007 to look at the incident, and a full report on the death was released by the Orange County district attorney's office in April 2008.
The report states that the death of Chamberlain was a highly orchestrated act. In the days before his death, it said, several inmates made anonymous calls to the Orange County Sheriff's Department asking about Chamberlain's pending charges. On the evening of Oct. 5, Chamberlain was taken to a "blind spot" at the jail, out of sight from the guard station, and was beaten to death by several waves of inmates, some of whom brought water with them from the bathroom to wash evidence of the crime away, the report said.
An autopsy revealed that Chamberlain had suffered severe blunt-force trauma, including 43 rib fractures, which caused respiratory and cardiac arrest.
Prosecutors said they believe that Petrovich was the leader of his prison group and ordered the killing death after Carlstrom asked Chamberlain about what kind of charge he faced.
The district attorney's report concluded that Chamberlain's death could have been prevented if existing policies and procedures at the jail had been followed, but charges were only filed against the inmates.
Three other men have already been convicted in the case. Michael Stewart Garten, 25, of Santa Ana pleaded guilty earlier this year to one felony count of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison. Christopher Teague, 35, of Long Beach, and Jeremy Dezso Culmann, 27, of Corona, each pleaded guilty to the same charge and were sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
Charges are also pending against Eric Charles Miller, 25, of Huntington Beach, who faces a felony count of murder and a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.
If convicted, the five defendants who will stand trial Monday each face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
-- Kate Mather
Photo: The Theo Lacy Detention Facility in Orange. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times