A 59-year-old man convicted in May of slaying the owner of a Santa Ana strip club and of raping the club owner's girlfriend in their Buena Park condo in January of 1987 was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole.
Before imposing the sentence, Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno rejected a motion for a new trial for Richard Curtis Morris Jr.
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On Jan. 1, 1987, 48-year-old Jimmy Casino, the owner of the Mustang Topless Theater, and his then-22-year-old girlfriend went to a movie with his 10-year-old son and one of the boy's friends. After the father, who was in the middle of divorce proceedings, dropped his boy off at the friend's for a sleepover, he accompanied his girlfriend of four years back to their Buena Park condo.
Two armed and masked men were waiting for them. The couple was repeatedly ordered not to look at their assailants, which explains why the girlfriend never got a good look at them despite being tied up and having the intruders take turns raping her.
Casino, who had his name legally changed from Jimmy Lee Stockwell, was also tied up and put in a separate room from his girlfriend. But she could still hear Casino trying to negotiate, telling the attackers he could get them cash. One abductor later put a pillow over the girlfriend's head so she would not hear the three gunshots fired into Casino's head.
He had lived a lavish lifestyle that had put him in debt to various people, according to investigators. Theories abounded as to who could have ordered the slaying, but the case went cold for decades. Then, in May 2008, Morris was arrested in Hawaii for drunken driving. DNA evidence taken from him matched evidence collected in the Casino murder. Morris was arrested at his home in Oahu in 2008 and extradited to Orange County in connection with the slaying.
In court, Morris tried to blame the murder on a man who used one of the strip club owner's credit cards after his death. Initially a suspect, the credit-card user was later cleared of Casino's murder. Meanwhile, Morris' public defender pointed to a mob figure who died in prison after taping a confession that was played to jurors. A deputy district attorney says whoever ordered the Casino hit is still being sought by investigators.
Morris was nonetheless found guilty of first-degree murder. Special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and murder during a rape and robbery were found true. The statute of limitations had prevented a rape count from being filed.
The motion for a new trial was reportedly based on attorney Martin Schwarz of the Orange County Public Defender's Office arguing Morris' blood type did not match blood at the scene. Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray countered that in legal briefs, saying there were two attackers and detectives linked Morris to the crime scene with DNA.
Briseno reportedly said the prosecution's DNA witness was “the best I've ever heard,” reports City News Service.
DNA evidence from Morris also matched that collected at the murder of a Pasadena grocery store owner in 1987, but an Orange County judge dismissed that case for a lack of jurisdiction and LA County prosecutors have not charged Morris. Thus, jurors in the Casino case did not hear about that slaying.
Mustang Topless Theater on Harbor Boulevard is long gone, burning to the ground in 1988 after previously surviving many arson attempts over the years. Criminal goings-on there and hits like the one on Jimmy Casino (real name James Lee Stockwell) were part of a string of mayhem in the '80s that had cops dubbing local organized crime figures the “Mickey Mouse Mafia.”