Trial in case of man stabbed, stuffed in barrel goes to jury

Data pix.

SAN DIEGO -- A man stabbed his housemate 66 times at their Chula Vista home in order to get his hands on the victim's money, then enlisted the help of a friend to dump the body in San Diego Bay, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday, while the defendant's attorneys told jurors that the prosecution was reaching in its case without a clear motive, witnesses or murder weapon.

Timothy John Cook, 54, is charged with murdering 28-year-old Omar Medina, whose body was found inside a 55-gallon drum floating in the bay on Oct. 12, 2017. Medical examiners said Medina had been stabbed in the chest, back, neck and head.

Co-defendant Derrick Spurgeon, 40, is charged as an accessory for allegedly helping Cook dispose of the body by providing the boat used to dump the barrel.

Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville told jurors in her closing argument that Cook killed Medina on or around Sept. 30, 2017, in the detached room of a home at 526 McIntosh St., where both men resided. The roommates both worked at a scaffolding business for Cook's younger brother.

Medina's family never heard from him after Sept. 30, and filed a missing person's report soon afterward with Chula Vista police. His unlocked car was found about a week later on Oaklawn Avenue, not far from the home he shared with Cook. Numerous belongings, including his computer and guitar, were inside the vehicle.

The prosecutor said that from Oct. 1 through Oct. 7, Cook told his brother he was out of town in Northern California, though he never actually left San Diego County. Instead, Somerville said Cook spent that week cleaning up the crime scene by tearing out portions of the detached room, as well as areas of Cook's kitchen.

On Oct. 11, Cook asked Spurgeon to assist him in towing the boat from Spurgeon's home in El Cajon to San Diego Bay, where Spurgeon also helped Cook weigh down the barrel with a makeshift anchor made of wire and cinderblocks, according to the prosecution. The drum was located by another boater less than 18 hours after it was dumped.

Somerville alleged that Cook killed Medina in order to access around $84,000 he had recently received in a legal settlement.

Though trial testimony indicated Cook never accessed Medina's bank accounts, Somerville said that was simply a cautionary move on his part, as taking the money so soon after the murder would "set off red flags and alarm bells."

The prosecutor told jurors that Cook had pictures of Medina's bank statements in his Google account, and also cited text messages between Cook and his brother indicating Cook's contempt for Medina's drinking and sloppy household behavior.

Defense attorney Kara Oien said the prosecution was emphasizing Medina's money and Cook's dislike of Medina in a reach to find a motive.

"There is no motive. The D.A. wants you to think there's a motive because there's no evidence of killing," Oien said.

The defense attorney said Cook arrived home and found the victim's body and conceded that he disposed of the remains, but maintained that he didn't kill Medina. Oien said her client "freaked out and panicked," and did not contact police because he was worried he would be blamed for the killing and had prior poor experiences dealing with law enforcement.

"He was trying to avoid the very predicament that we're in today -- being tried and charged for murder he didn't commit," Oien said.

As for the home project, Oien maintained Cook made routine repairs to the home as part of his deal with the landlord for reduced rent.

Oien did not specify who she thought killed Medina, though she did cite text messages from a former friend of Medina's in which he talks about "putting a price" on Medina following an unspecified dispute.

Spurgeon's attorney, Roland Haddad, said that while it hadn't been proven that Cook killed Medina, even were that true, there was no way to prove that Spurgeon knew he was aiding a murderer by helping Cook dump the barrel.

Haddad cited how readily Cook lied to his own brother about leaving town, and stated that there was no way to know Cook also didn't lie to his client about why they were dumping the barrel.

Somerville said that while the evidence was circumstantial, it was also "overwhelming" in proving the defendants' guilt.

The prosecutor said Cook's activities after Sept. 30 were indicative of someone covering up a crime they committed, from his alleged clean-up efforts at the home to his frequent visits to a nearby dump and his enlisting of Spurgeon's help.

"The defense would like you to believe that this is all a huge coincidence," Somerville said.

Jury deliberations are expected to resume following the Thanksgiving holiday break.

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