Thursday, January 8, 2009

60. People v. Medina (1974)

The case of People v. Medina ( really has nothing to do with the Fountain of the World proper. Instead, as was the case more than once in its twilight, the Defendants in this case manipulated the sympathies of the good nature of some of the remaining Fountain members and used the place (particularly the home of Ann Todd) as their own personal flophouse. (See for a photograph of Ann Todd.) Nevertheless, it does make for some interesting reading.

Below are the facts of the case, as excerpted from the above-referenced case cite:

"The facts of this case are not very pleasant. As related by the prosecution witnesses, they are a shocking commentary upon the degree of degenerate conduct which can result from juvenile drug abuse, and the tragic consequences thereof. Midday on April 8, 1972, defendants Fred Mendez Medina, aged 20, and Danny Wayne Townsend, aged 18, together with their friend Edwin E. Vaughn, aged 18, Lisa Beth Gleitsman, a girl friend of Townsend, aged 17, and Virginia Lou Walton, a girl friend of Medina, aged 15, left the residence of Vaughn's brother-in-law, a ranch in the foothills west of the Chatsworth Reservoir in the west end of the San Fernando Valley, to go to the beach. They were all in a blue 1954 Chevy pickup truck with white fenders owned by defendant Medina. They stopped to get gas for the truck at Zody's on the corner of Roscoe and Topanga Canyon Boulevards. At the gas station they picked up two hitchhikers, Dori Ann Haines and Cheryl Ann Monticello, ages 15 and 16, respectively. The seven then drove in the truck over Topanga Canyon to a beach somewhere north of Malibu. After about an hour at the beach they all returned to the San Fernando Valley via Malibu Canyon and then drove up Woolsey Canyon Road or, as it is locally known, "Rocketdyne Road," in Woolsey Canyon in the hills west of the Chatsworth Reservoir. They parked the truck at a remote and isolated site off a dirt road about a quarter of a mile from Rocketdyne Road. Sometime later, about the time it was beginning to get dark, the two defendants, Vaughn, Gleitsman and Walton left the area in the truck, and returned to the residence of Ann Todd at the Fountain of the World in Box Canyon, where both defendants were then residing. Dori and Cheryl, however, never left the site alive.

On April 17, 1972, three young men, while shooting tin cans near the site, off Rocketdyne Road where defendant Medina's truck had been parked, found what appeared to be human remains covered with brush. The body was later identified as that of Dori. The body of Cheryl, also covered with brush and debris, was found on April 21, 1972, by two women who were hiking in the same area. As shown by the testimony of Dr. Eugene Carpenter, the pathologist who performed autopsies on each of the victims, both died as a result of multiple stab wounds to the heart with a knife or knives. Dori was stabbed around 50 times. Most of the wounds were made by a single-edged "hunting" knife, although several wounds had been made by a double-edged knife. Cheryl suffered approximately 35 stab wounds, all of which were made by a single-edged knife. Both victims had severe basal skull fractures and their throats had been cut. Dori had, in addition, suffered a nonfatal blow with a blunt instrument to the forehead. In addition to his testimony concerning the wounds, Dr. Carpenter testified that both the victims had consumed, shortly before their death, a quantity of barbiturates -- specifically, pentobarbital sodium or, as it is referred to on the street, "Yellows." On May 6, 1972, Vaughn, having heard from his sister that the investigating officer had called and desired to talk to him, called and arranged an appointment with him. On that date he gave a statement to the officer implicating both defendants and Gleitsman and Walton. On May 9, 1972, both defendants were arrested, as were Gleitsman and Walton. From May 6 through May 15, 1972, discussions were conducted between Vaughn and the prosecutor which culminated in his giving a tape-recorded statement on May 15, 1972, on the basis of which he was, on June 14, 1972, granted immunity from prosecution pursuant to the provisions of section 1324 of the Penal Code. Like discussions occurred between the prosecutors and Gleitsman and Walton after their arrest which produced tape-recorded statements from each of them on May 10, 1972 and, on the basis of these statements, orders granting immunity pursuant to section 1324 of the Penal Code were made on May 11, 1972. Virtually all of the direct evidence of what occurred between the time Dori and Cheryl joined the others in the truck at Zody's and the time of their deaths was contained in the testimony of the three witnesses to whom immunity was granted -- Vaughn, Gleitsman and Walton. No one of these witnesses claimed to have seen and to have recalled all of the events occurring during this time span. There are some inconsistencies between their three versions of the facts they did recall, and in some respects it is almost certain that the whole truth was not told by two of them. Nonetheless, if credence is given to a composite of the consistent and not inherently unbelievable portions of this testimony, it is possible for a trier of fact to make a reasonable determination of essentially what happened. The following version of the facts is the most likely result of such process. Both of the defendants and Vaughn, Gleitsman and Walton were together at a party the night before the day of the murders. The party was at the ranch of Vaughn's brother-in-law, and various barbiturates were consumed by those in attendance. The following morning they all got together again at the ranch and left in defendant Medina's pickup truck to go to the beach. They stopped at Zody's for gasoline and while there, or upon leaving, they picked up Dori and Cheryl who were hitchhiking. The entire party, including the hitchhikers, consumed more barbiturates (i.e. "yellows") either at the gas station or during a subsequent stop between there and the beach. Upon reaching the beach Dori and Cheryl were furnished and consumed additional barbiturates. Also at the beach there was a pairing off of Vaughn with Cheryl and defendant Townsend with Dori. Upon observing defendant Townsend showing sexual interest in Dori, Gleitsman, who considered herself his girl friend, returned to the truck in a fit of jealousy and took two barbiturates (in addition to the two she had had earlier in the day). The bag in which the pills were kept was then taken from her by defendant Medina, who feared she might overdose. The party then left the beach in the truck. Defendant Medina was driving and Gleitsman and Walton were in the cab with him. Defendant Townsend and Dori were in the bed of the truck, as were Vaughn and Cheryl. When Gleitsman observed Townsend kissing Dori, she smashed the window in the back of the cab with her fist. Defendant Medina's driving became so erratic that Walton asked him to let Vaughn drive. As Vaughn took the wheel, defendant Medina asked him about a place where they could "finish" the party. They drove without incident to the remote site on the dirt road off Rocketdyne Road where the truck was parked on a level clearing or turnout beside the road. The turnout was at a higher elevation than the adjoining portion of the road and it was bordered on the side away from the road by an elevated outcropping of very large boulders. A path ran around one end of the outcropping to a lower elevation beyond. It was then about 2 p.m. When the truck was parked both defendants and Gleitsman, Walton and Dori got out of the truck and left Vaughn in it with Cheryl. Vaughn and Cheryl talked for a while; then he had intercourse with Cheryl which he claimed was consensual, though he described her as intoxicated at the time. While Vaughn and Cheryl were in the truck, defendant Medina and Dori, accompanied by both Gleitsman and Walton, proceeded out of view to a flat space among the boulders. Defendant Medina told Dori to "give him head" (orally copulate him). When she asked why, he said because he wanted her to. When Dori declined, Gleitsman and Walton first made fun of her and then, when she started to cry, she was struck by one of the girls and the other took a swing at her but missed, and both girls told her to do what defendant Medina said. Dori then commenced complying with their demands, and both Gleitsman and Walton wandered off. They returned several minutes later and Walton brought a blanket belonging to her which she had obtained from the truck. About that time defendant Medina, who was still being orally copulated by Dori, announced that his resulting erection was suitable for intercourse and ordered Dori to remove her clothing. He asked for and received the blanket. When Dori was undressed defendant Medina proceeded to have intercourse with her on the blanket. Gleitsman and Walton again wandered off. Gleitsman returned about the time that defendant Medina concluded having intercourse with Dori, and she kicked Dori's clothing over the steep side of the rock outcropping. About this time Gleitsman heard Vaughn and Cheryl leave the truck cab, and she returned to the truck to meet defendant Townsend and Vaughn and Cheryl there. Vaughn slapped Cheryl and informed defendant Townsend that she was a "good piece of ass," whereupon defendant Townsend and Cheryl left on the path that went around the side of the outcropping to the slope below. Vaughn then proceeded to the place among the boulders where Dori had been left nude on the blanket and he had intercourse with her, which he also claimed was consensual. He observed, however, that she was intoxicated. About this time a young boy on a motorbike arrived in the vicinity of the truck where he remained for several minutes. While he was there Gleitsman, who was looking for Townsend, spoke to him. Walton also came up to this location during the conversation. Meanwhile, defendant Townsend had found a cave on the lower side of the rock outcropping. He lifted Cheryl up into the cave with him where he proceeded to have intercourse with her. Sometime later Walton found them so engaged. She told defendant Townsend, "Danny, wait until Lisa hears this one." Walton then told defendant Townsend that she wanted to talk to Cheryl. Defendant Townsend helped Walton get up into the cave and then left her there with Cheryl. Walton then asked Cheryl "why she had done it" with both Vaughn and defendant Townsend. When Cheryl didn't answer, Walton started a fight with her. They wrestled about in the cave and ultimately both of them fell out of the cave. Cheryl rolled to the bottom of the path and just lay there. While these events at the cave were occurring, Vaughn completed his act of intercourse with Dori among the boulders and then left her stranded on the blanket without her clothes and returned to the truck. Gleitsman soon found Dori in the place and state that Vaughn had left her. Dori was still crying, and when she attempted to apologize to Gleitsman for defendant Townsend's attentions to her at the beach earlier in the day and said she was sorry for "taking away" Gleitsman's boyfriend, Gleitsman became enraged. She kicked Dori in the shoulder and followed this up with a blow to her forehead, using a hand-held rock some four inches in diameter. Dori remained prone on the blanket after this assault and Gleitsman then broke off the attack. At this juncture Walton summoned Gleitsman to the scene of her altercation with Cheryl to assist her. When she arrived at the point where Cheryl had fallen, she joined in some verbal abuse that was taking place, and ultimately Cheryl was struck in the head by a large rock.

Defendants, having observed the effects of the girls' attacks upon Dori and Cheryl, joined Vaughn at the truck and advised him that they were going to have to kill Dori and Cheryl. When he asked why, defendants said it was necessary because the girls would talk. Vaughn, who was not armed and knew that defendants were each armed with knives, did not argue with them. He observed defendants depart together in the direction of Dori. Defendants found Dori where she had been left at the conclusion of Gleitsman's attack. Defendant Townsend was observed by Gleitsman commencing the stabbing attack upon Dori. He was joined in the attack by defendant Medina. The multiple stab wounds which caused Dori's death were inflicted with both defendants' knives. Defendant Townsend then proceeded toward the place where Cheryl lay. As he passed the truck he was seen by Vaughn taking the path around the outcropping to the lower slope. Soon thereafter defendant Medina traversed the same route and was seen by Vaughn to have his bloody knife in his hand. Defendant Townsend reached Cheryl ahead of defendant Medina and was seen by Walton to stab Cheryl in the throat and chest. After Cheryl had been stabbed four or five times, Walton started back up the trail toward the truck and heard defendant Townsend complaining that "his knife didn't stick in good enough." Before she reached the truck, Walton met defendant Medina and Vaughn, who had fallen in behind Medina when he saw him head down the trail towards Cheryl with his bloody knife in hand. She noted that defendant Medina had large blood stains on his clothing and that Vaughn was white as a sheet. By the time Vaughn and defendant Medina arrived on the scene Cheryl was already dead from multiple stab wounds. All five in the party joined in helping to cover the bodies of Dori and Cheryl. Then they returned to the truck. Defendant Townsend stabbed his knife into the bed of the truck and said, "Wasn't it spiffy the way I slit that one girl's throat?" Vaughn told defendants that they had been stupid. Defendants stated that if anyone asked, they had been to Lake Piru for the day. Although the testimony of Vaughn, Gleitsman and Walton constituted the only direct evidence of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Dori and Cheryl, a number of other witnesses were called by the prosecution to corroborate their testimony. Walter Collins, a young acquaintance of defendants, testified that both defendants, along with Vaughn, Walton and Gleitsman, were seen by him together in defendant Medina's truck on the morning of April 8, 1972, at the "Reservoir Bar," which is located between the ranch and Zody's. They invited him to go with them to the beach. Officer Robert Searle of the Los Angeles Police Department testified that on April 8, 1972, he was off duty and fueling his car at Zody's about midday. He observed both defendants in the station with another young Caucasian male and two teen-age Caucasian females. Officer Searle's description of the male companion would fit Vaughn. James Maglieri testified that he was employed as a service station attendant at Zody's, and on April 8, 1972, he observed both defendants a pickup truck, described as resembling defendant Medina's truck, in the station with a group of young men and women. While defendants were there, Maglieri saw defendant Townsend with a hunting knife in his hand when he started to get out of the truck. Maglieri also testified that he observed two hitchhiking girls on Topanga Canyon Boulevard near the corner. He described these girls as being one dark-haired girl and the other light-haired. Dori and Cheryl fit that description. He was not absolutely certain as to the date of this last observation, though he was sure that it was on an occasion when defendant Medina's truck was in the station. Larry Deidrich, a 12-year-old boy, testified that he went riding on his motorcycle in the hills west of the Chatsworth Reservoir on the afternoon of April 8, 1972. He stated that he observed a truck, resembling defendant Medina's pickup, parked on the clearing at the scene of the murders. He stopped in the vicinity of the truck to let his bike cool off. When he arrived there were two people, one male and one female, in the cab of the truck. He also stated that later he was approached by a girl whose dress and appearance corresponded to that of Gleitsman, and that she asked him if he was alone. They were joined by another girl, apparently Walton, whom he could not recall having joined in the conversation. Deidrich testified that he left the area after about 15 minutes and when he returned about 6 p.m., the truck was gone. Mrs. Ann Todd, in whose home both the defendants resided along with Mrs. Todd's 12-year-old daughter, Cornelia, testified that at some time around 5 p.m., on April 8, 1972, she observed both defendants, together with Gleitsman and Walton, coming up the stairs to the house where they were joined shortly thereafter by Vaughn. All of them appeared to her to be intoxicated, especially Gleitsman and Walton. Mrs. Todd was preparing to take laundry to the laundromat and she testified that defendant Medina gave her his jacket to be included in the wash. Sheryl Henderson, a young friend of Mrs. Todd's daughter, who had been to the beach with her on that day, testified that on April 8, 1972, she observed both defendants together with Vaughn, Gleitsman and Walton, ascending the stairs to Mrs. Todd's house late in the afternoon. According to Miss Henderson, both Gleitsman and Walton were under the influence of some intoxicating substance. Miss Henderson also observed that Vaughn, for some time after his arrival, "just ... sat on the couch with his head down." Cornelia Todd also testified about the arrival at her mother's house of both defendants, together with Vaughn, Gleitsman and Walton, in the late afternoon of April 8, 1972. In addition, she described an incident which occurred on the early morning of either the 7th or 8th of April 1972, in a bedroom of Mrs. Todd's home which was occupied by both defendants. Present on that occasion were Cornelia, defendant Townsend, defendant Medina, and another young girl named Kim Bertsch. Cornelia testified that Kim's father entered the room unexpectedly and threatened defendant Townsend with physical violence if he did not stay away from his daughter. Defendant Townsend responded by taking his knife from the stand between the beds, where Cornelia had seen it many times before, and jumped up with the knife in his hand. Cornelia described the knife as a hunting knife. On that same occasion, according to Cornelia, defendant Medina made a motion with his hand toward a portion of the mattress of his bed. Cornelia knew he had a knife there because, on a prior occasion and at a request of defendant Medina, she had placed it at that location. She identified a double-edged knife which was received in evidence as Medina's knife which she had so placed."


Footnote 8 "The legitimate objective of the testimony relating to this incident was proof that defendants kept knives in their immediate possession, not (a) that they had a disposition for assaultive behavior with those knives, nor (b) that the knives were of a character capable of being employed as weapons. Prior acts of misconduct on the part of defendants were inadmissible for the former purpose under Evidence Code section 1101, and there was no dispute as to the usefulness of the knives for the purpose of stabbing someone. The circumstances leading up to this incident (that Cornelia Todd, age 11, and Kim Bertsch, age 14, had spent the night in defendants' beds) were highly prejudicial to defendants. In any retrial of the matter, care should be taken to restrict the evidence to that which the probative value of is not outweighed by the prejudice to defendants. (Evid. Code, § 352.)"

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