SAN DIEGO -- A man who stabbed his roommate 66 times at the Chula Vista home they shared, then stuffed the victim's body into a barrel and tossed the 55-gallon drum into San Diego Bay, was sentenced Monday to 56 years to life in state prison.
Timothy John Cook, 54, was found guilty last month of second-degree murder for the Sept. 30, 2017, killing of Omar Medina, 28, who was stabbed in a detached room of the home the two men shared at 526 McIntosh St.
Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville told jurors that Cook killed Medina to gain access to around $84,000 the victim had received in a legal settlement. Text messages shared during the trial also indicated Cook disliked Medina's frequent drinking and sloppy household behavior.
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.
On Oct. 12, 2017, Medina's body was found inside a 55-gallon drum floating in the bay. He had been stabbed in the chest, back, neck and head.
Cook's attorney, Kara Oien, conceded that Cook disposed of the victim's remains, but maintained he didn't kill Medina. She said that upon finding Medina's body, her client "freaked out and panicked." He did not contact police because he was worried he would be blamed for the killing and had poor prior experiences dealing with law enforcement, the defense attorney said.
Oien also argued the money motive was speculation on the prosecution's part, particularly because Cook never accessed Medina's bank accounts, though he did have images of Medina's bank statements in his Google account.
Somerville countered that Cook knew taking the money so soon after the murder would "set off red flags and alarm bells," and thus didn't access the accounts as a cautionary move.
The prosecutor said that from Oct. 1-7, 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.
Oien argued Cook was merely making routine repairs to the home as part of a deal with the landlord for reduced rent.
The defense attorney read a written statement from Cook at his sentencing hearing, in which he reiterated his innocence, though he admitted to concealing the crime, disposing of the body and failing to report what happened to police.
Cook apologized to Medina's family, saying he did what he felt he had to do out of fear, though he did not expect the family or the court to believe him.
"I am truly embarrassed and ashamed for my involvement in this case," his statement read.
Medina's mother, Alicia Romero, and sister, Alicia Villegas, addressed the court and said though it was difficult, they forgave Cook.
Villegas, who was wearing the dress she wore at her brother's burial, told the defendant: "I wish I could say it makes me feel good that you're going to prison, but it doesn't. What I want is my brother."
In rejecting Oien's request that she impose a 16-year-to-life sentence, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Carolyn Caietti cied Cook's extensive criminal history, which included a 1997 attempted murder conviction for which he served 17 years in prison.
In that case, Cook shot a man in the face, blinding the victim in one eye, according to Somerville.
The same jury that convicted Cook deadlocked 10-2 in favor of guilt on an accessory after the fact charge against his co-defendant, Derrick Spurgeon, who is accused of helping dispose of the body by providing his boat to dump the barrel. Prosecutors said Cook asked Spurgeon to assist him in towing the boat from Spurgeon's home in El Cajon to San Diego Bay, where Spurgeon allegedly also helped weigh down the barrel with a makeshift anchor made of wire and cinderblocks.
Spurgeon, 40, remains in custody and awaits a May court date to determine whether he will be retried on the accessory charge.