Villafana at his sentencing hearing last year
Villafana at his sentencing hearing last year
OC Register pool photograph

Raul Villafana Sentenced to 15 Years to Life for John Chamberlain Murder

In a hearing this morning at the Orange County Superior Courthouse, Raul Villafana, 25, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, becoming the eighth former Theo Lacy Jail inmate to be sentenced in the murder of John Chamberlain, a fellow prisoner who was savagely assaulted on suspicions he was a child molester. Although there was scant testimony during Chamberlain's murder trial late last year that Villafana had personally injured Chamberlain, eyewitnesses placed him in a meeting of fellow jailhouse gang leaders at which, prosecutors argued, the victim's brutal fate was sealed.

Chamberlain, who was awaiting trial for misdemeanor possession of child pornography, was attacked on the evening of Oct. 5, 2006 by dozens of inmates for up to 45 minutes while guards watched television and texted their girlfriends in a nearby guard tower. Inmates took turns punching, kicking and stomping on Chamberlain, and at some point, his attackers anally penetrated him with a plastic spoon and a tube of toothpaste.

In interviews with detectives in the hours after the attack, the defendants first claimed not to have been involved and later tried to assert that there was never any plan to murder Chamberlain, and that such beatings were routine events that took place with full knowledge of guards.

In fact, the Weekly interviewed two of Villafana's fellow defendants, Jared Petrovich and Stephen Carlstrom, as well as another inmate, Michael Garten, who pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter; all three claimed that a deputy named Kevin Taylor, who was never charged with a crime, had started the rumor that Chamberlain was a child molester the day he died. Taylor lost his job as a result of a grand jury investigation into the murder that also led to the dismissals of several top-ranking sheriff's officials involved in jail operations. 

Of the other defendants that have already been sentenced, all also received punishments of 15 years to life in prison with the exception of Miguel Guillen, 49, who received 20 years to life because he had prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon on his record. The last inmate to be tried in the murder, Eric Miller, 26, is scheduled to have a pre-trial hearing on April 20. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

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