'Do I Have the Bigger Penis?'
Imagine you're a 911 operator, and you answer a call as a woman screams in the background, "Hurry, God!" Then a calm male voice says, "I just killed her boyfriend, okay? He is not alive. . . . This is her husband."
John Angel Salcida didn't claim self-defense. How could he? The murder had been an early-morning ambush with a steel-claw hammer and a knife on Sergio Ojeda, the 18-year-old man sleeping with Salcida's estranged wife.
At trial, Salcida offered a heat-of-passion defense as a legal justification, and there was some evidence to support his position. There had been intense personal provocations.
Jump back to 1999, when Salcida and Brianne (the Weekly is not revealing her last name) met as students at Edison High School in Huntington Beach. After four months of dating, she became pregnant, and they married. Salcida was 18 years old; she was 17.
The couple moved to Nevada. Not surprisingly, the marriage was rocky. Salcida had never really dated any other women and often showed signs of immaturity. He'd go out drinking with buddies, and, Brianne had reason to believe, he cheated.
Eventually, Brianne took the couple's kid and moved back to a cheap, one-bedroom Huntington Beach apartment. She got a job. Salcida soon returned from Nevada, but he struggled to find work. In the summer of 2003, she told him she wanted "her space." She began staying out overnight, claiming falsely that she was sleeping at a girlfriend's house. Then she'd be gone all weekend.
Salcida tried to heal the marriage. He bought her flowers, told her he loved her more often, and took care of their daughter during Brianne's frequent disappearances. She remained aloof, however.
Brianne had found new love: Ojeda, her co-worker. Salcida discovered the relationship by checking her cellphone calls. They exchanged heated words. She asked for a divorce.
But Salcida wouldn't let go. In the car, he complained about Ojeda, threatened suicide and grabbed a shotgun. Brianne jumped from the vehicle to flee, according to testimony. Another time, he found her alone and threw her to the floor. He told her that because she didn't appreciate rough sex, he had to employ prostitutes. He also demanded to know if Ojeda had a bigger penis. Salcida must not have liked the answer. He put a knife to Brianne's throat, tore her pajamas off, raped her, ejaculated, and then wiped semen all over her face. He was arrested. His mother bailed him out of the Orange County Jail and took him back to Nevada.
A week later, Salcida—the product of a drug-dealing father and a heroin-addict mother who lived on welfare, according to court records—returned to Southern California, ostensibly to find a defense lawyer. In fact, he'd brought with him a hammer and a knife. When he arrived, he exchanged cellphone text messages with Ojeda, who called him a "retard" incapable of taking care of his family. It was the final humiliation.
On the morning of Nov. 6, 2003, Ojeda and Brianne woke up, showered and prepared for work. They'd left the front door unlocked after walking the dog. In a guest bedroom, Ojeda ironed Brianne's clothes for work, with his back to the door. Brianne ran a bath for her daughter. Suddenly, her "dazed" husband walked in.
"He's dead," Salcida said. "I killed him."
Brianne ran to see Ojeda and saw his bloody, lifeless body. She screamed. Salcida picked up his frightened daughter and walked to the kitchen phone to dial 911. With police on the way, he grabbed Brianne by the hair, dragged her to the bathroom, ripped off her clothes, tossed her on the floor and raped her while holding a ceramic pot over her head. When the police arrived, he broke the pot and used the fragments to repeatedly stab himself in the neck. The wounds required emergency surgery.
Ojeda had no chance. An autopsy showed no defensive wounds on his hands or arms, meaning he probably never saw the first hammer swing to his skull. The second blow was delivered with such force that the hammer broke. Without a word, Salcida then stabbed Ojeda 24 times in his head, neck, chest, back and, most gruesomely, in the groin.
Now living in Mule Creek State Prison, Salcida recently begged the Santa Ana-based state Court of Appeal to overturn his conviction and punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He claimed a judge had been unfairly restrictive of his heat-of-passion defense. Earlier this summer, the justices ruled that prosecutors had more than adequately proved murder by premeditation, deliberation and lying in wait.
Never mind that Theresa (again, the Weekly is not revealing her last name) was topless as she made food in her Orange apartment kitchen. She violated an unwritten rule: Don't nag the boyfriend—in this case, Roy Lee Morton—while he's watching a porno.
The 38-year-old convicted felon with few, if any, non-criminal skills didn't appreciate the interruption. "I'm going to kill you, you fucking bitch," Morton told her, according to court records. He threw a chair and a wooden tray, chased her into the hallway, tore a cellphone out of her hand as she called 911, and tossed her down. He head-butted her, landed a series of punches, and wrapped both hands around her neck and squeezed. Theresa suffered wounds to her eyes, cheeks, chin, throat, nose, jaw, legs and chest. In a final show of domination, Morton pulled his pants down, hung his ass over Theresa's face and said, "I'm going to shit on you," according to her testimony.
Theresa escaped in time. As a police cruiser neared, Morton quickly turned soft. He professed his love and begged her to keep quiet. It was too late. When the cops arrived, they saw her injuries and arrested him.
During his seven-day trial, Morton—a 5-foot-8, 170-pound warehouse worker—refused to take responsibility for his actions. Theresa testified he'd been "demeaning me a lot and telling me he was seeing strippers and that he would prefer to be with other women." When she made a comment about better-looking men, he went nuts, she said.
Morton contended that Theresa had beaten him. Any blows he might have thrown were in self-defense, his lawyer claimed. But Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey foiled the plan. He allowed jurors to hear evidence of Morton's prior attacks on women.
The inside of a jail cell was familiar to Morton. In 1986, he stole a motorcycle and got 60 days in jail. Two months later, he stole a car and spent 30 days in jail. Six months after that, he stole a truck and got another 30 days. In 1987, he burglarized a home and was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1990, he stole another vehicle and spent three years behind bars. In 1992, cops arrested him for DUI and resisting arrest. He got 16 months. In 1995, he assaulted a woman. Two years later, he raped a different woman in Hemet and got seven years in prison. In 2003, he stole a child. His probation was revoked.
Despite his recidivism, Morton was free from custody in 2004, drinking booze, watching porno and, sadly, strangling poor Theresa. A jury convicted him. In December 2005, Judge Toohey rendered a sentence of 12 years in prison.
Morton maintains his innocence. But in late June, an appellate court refused to accept the delusion. He'll serve the remainder of his prison term, and then he will be re-released into society.
One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest
What would you expect to find in an unsupervised, county-government-tied group home for people struggling with mental-health issues and substance-abuse problems? How about nuttiness, substance abuse and sex? Oh, and violence, too.
In early 2004, the county's mental-health-care agency helped to place Joshua Weyland Brenn into his own bedroom in the group home at 555 N. Cypress in Orange. Brenn invited Valerie, his fiancee in Northern California, to take the bus and visit him for a week. The couple's relationship had been troubled. She had a restraining order against him for prior violence. At the time, Brenn was in fact under five grants of probation for cases involving battery, drugs, burglary and receiving stolen property. None of that was likely on his mind with Valerie on her way. He stopped taking his Prozac, Lithium and Serequel to "increase his sex drive," according to court records.
Everything went well until the last day of Valerie's visit, Feb. 18. The home's residents and visitors got drunk on hard liquor and smoked marijuana. On a living room television, a porn video played.
At about 7:30 p.m., the once-jovial atmosphere turned dark. The reason? Valerie made a sexually suggestive pass at another young, scantily clad woman in the house, according to testimony. Brenn seethed. An argument ensued. Brenn grabbed Valerie by the hair and pulled her around. Another resident, Ronnie Zupsic, tried to stop the attack. Brenn grabbed Zupsic by the throat. The two men exchanged blows before retreating to separate rooms.
Minutes later, Brenn found Zupsic, asked for reconciliation, turned to walk away, and then spun around to catch his housemate off-guard. The 26-year-old stabbed Zupsic in the stomach with a foot-long kitchen knife. The bloody victim managed to walk to a neighbor's house, where he called 911 as he fell into shock. While Zupsic underwent emergency surgery at the hospital, police arrested Brenn.
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In 2005, a jury acquitted Brenn of attempted murder and instead found him guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, infliction of great bodily harm and violating a court order. Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue sentenced him to seven years in prison.
But as late as last month, Brenn has continued to argue he should have won at trial because of his "diminished capacity" and his "heat of passion" defense. After all, who could blame him for being outraged at the thought of his fiancee having sex with a woman? And he'd been drunk, high, and off his prescription medications.
State justices have heard much better excuses. They upheld the conviction. Perhaps worse for Brenn—now a resident of Folsom State Prison—Valerie gave up on him after the stabbing. She called off their wedding.
H.O.M.E.S Inc.—the Newport Beach-based nonprofit organization that operates the group house—continues to advertise the scene of the crime as a place where mental patients successfully "learn life skills."