The final piece in Orange County law enforcement's relentless determination to solve a 13-year-old Placentia murder fell into place this afternoon when sheriff's homicide detectives arrested Thomas Joseph Garrick of Laguna Hills.
Garrick is now locked inside the Orange County Jail without the possibility of bail because prosecutor Michael F. Murray believes he has enough solid evidence to prove Garrick's participation in the Rambo-knife, ambush murder of Jack Jessee on Aug. 13, 1998.
The 36-year-old onetime Target, Pet Smart and U.S. Navy employee will face three felony charges tomorrow: murder, conspiracy to commit murder and a special circumstances charge of murder for financial gain.
"It's about time," said Chere Williams, one of Jessee's daughters. "I want that scumbag off the streets. What he did to my father was sick."
Others arrested in the crime have included Brett Schrauben, Sandra Jessee, the victim's wife, and Thomas Aehlert, the victim's stepson.
After sensational investigatory work by the homicide unit of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Schrauben and Aehlert eventually confessed.
Sandra Jessee, who law enforcement officials believe was the mastermind of the killing, is presently on trial in Superior Court Judge James A. Stotler's Santa Ana courtroom. If convicted, she faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. Schrauben agreed to cooperate and served only 515 days in the local jail. Later, Aehlert confessed and outlined the conspiracy involving his own mother. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a likely 15 years to life sentence with the potential for parole.
Garrick has obtained a defense lawyer and previously told sheriff's investigators that he was not involved in the crime.
In recent weeks, both Schrauben and Aehlert have testified that Garrick was the killer.
Testimony also has shown that Schrauben was paid $50,000 for the hit but chickened out and subcontracted the killing to Garrick for $20,000.
With proceeds from the victim's life insurance and retirement funds, Schrauben bought new furniture, a Ford pickup truck and a jet ski. Aehlert bought a new home near Phoenix. And, according to Schrauben, Garrick used his portion of the money to fix his teeth which had turned black due to a methamphetamine addiction, according to court records.
Derek Bercher, Sandra Jessee's defense lawyer, has maintained that his client is innocent.
Go HERE to read my previous cover story about the first, hung jury trial in this case.
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Read my Moxley Confidential column on the intense Jessee trial battle in tomorrow's pre-Thanksgiving issue of the Weekly.
It's a wild case that has won the attention of Dateline NBC, which is preparing a feature on the crime.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
rscottmoxley at ocweekly dot com