Man accused in Arcata homicide enters insanity plea
Richard Villa Dean II pleaded not guilty to a charge of homicide by reason of insanity and denied the special allegation he personally used a deadly weapon at an arraignment on information Tuesday morning.
Dean, who appeared in court in custody, was represented by Deputy Public Defender Ben McLaughlin, and he stands accused of stabbing and killing 52-year-old Anthony Pennucci outside Pennucci’s Valley West apartment in Arcata on Oct. 25, 2015.
“We acknowledge the charges and we enter pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity and deny the special allegation. Mr. Dean intends to waive time and I am prepared to file a general motion to suppress documents and we request a setting date sufficiently remote from today to allow me to prepare,” McLaughlin said. “I would ask for 45 days, I want to file motions to suppress and having spoken with Ms. (Stacey) Eads, that could be a long hearing.”
Judge Christopher Wilson then addressed Dean and asked him if he understood the charges filed against him and accepted his pleas and then explained that if the insanity plea is accepted he could still spend time in state custody.
“There still would be a potential term in a state hospital until you are found mentally competent or no longer a danger to the public, do you understand that?” Wilson asked as Dean responded, “yes.”
In addition to the homicide charge, Dean is also charged with felony vandalism, robbery and resisting arrest and he has already spent time in a state hospital for treatment.
Dean, who was 18-years-old when he was arrested in connection with the Pennucci homicide, was initially deemed incompetent to stand trial and entered a not guilty plea by reason of insanity in 2017. Dean was sent to a state hospital for treatment and was returned from the hospital in July and he remains in custody with bail set at $1.1 million.
Pennucci was found on the ground outside his apartment bleeding from a stab wound and later died at the hospital.
Dean was arrested at his Hoopa residence three days after Pennucci was killed and the charge of resisting arrest stems from that time. Dean allegedly threw a rock at a police car and then fought with arresting officers before being taken into custody. He was found in possession of some of Pennucci’s belongings and it’s not believed the two men knew each other at the time of the altercation.
Dean is also charged with battery on a corrections officer in 2016 and of being a prisoner in possession of a deadly weapon in 2017.
Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer will prosecute Dean and he is scheduled to be back in court for a trial setting hearing on Dec. 4.
Hearing set in Orick fatal stabbing case
A man facing a possible third felony strike was in court on Tuesday for a status hearing. Ronald Loureiro Jr., who is accused of stabbing and killing 34-year-old Vernon James Weatherford as he sat in a car in Orick on Jan. 4 pleaded not guilty to all charges and a trial setting date has been scheduled for Nov. 13.
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham, called three law enforcement officers to the stand at the preliminary hearing in July, and one of those witnesses, California Highway Patrol Officer Ethan Thompson reported the mother of Loureiro’s three children identified him as the assailant.
According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, the stabbing took place in front of Loureiro’s three kids who were in the back seat of a car with Weatherford in the driver’s seat. One of the children later told an investigator Loureiro has killed Weatherford.
“The 6-year-old looked sad and he said he had witnessed Ron stab Vernon,” said Humboldt County Sheriff’s Detective Hillary Havens who interviewed the children. “He called Vernon ‘dad’ and said ‘my real dad (Loureiro) stabbed him.’”
That vehicle became a subject of discussion at Tuesday’s hearing because the owner has requested the vehicle be returned.
“A vehicle was impounded and I believe the defense investigators have had a chance to photograph it so it can be returned to its owner,” said Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham, who is prosecuting the case.
Deputy Public Defender Joe Judge is representing Loureiro and he told Judge Christopher Wilson he is still doing some work with doctors and he was looking at a pre-trial date for November.
Loureiro is facing the homicide charge with the special allegation the defendant personally used a weapon, a knife, along with three allegations of child endangerment because the children were in the car at the time of the stabbing.
Loureiro already has two violent felony convictions to his name and a third strike could greatly impact his sentence if he’s convicted. He remains in jail with bail set at $1.6 million.
Chico man accused of double murder set for hearing Thursday
Ulisses Rodriguez, a Chico man arrested in August on suspicion of murder, has not waived time following his arraignment and a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Thursday.
Rodriguez is being represented by Deputy Public Defender Ben McLaughlin and he appeared in court Thursday afternoon wearing jail-issued clothing and handcuffs.
He is facing two counts of first-degree murder for allegedly shooting and killing Tiffany Marie Ellebrecht and Jeremy Dieter Kuemmel, whose bodies were found following a reported car fair in Southern Humboldt County. Rodriguez is also charged with a count of arson and making criminal threats against a third victim.
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal, said he is ready to move forward.
“I believe we are very well prepared for the preliminary hearing. In serious cases like homicides, it is common for defendants to waive time, but there is also nothing particularly unusual about having a preliminary hearing within the 60-day time limit,” said Bernthal on Thursday. “It is something that we are prepared to handle on the prosecution side of things in the normal course of a case.”
The preliminary hearing is estimated to take up to five hours and it will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and he remains in custody with bail set at $4.4 million.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.