SONOMA CO.: TWO MEN WILL STAND TRIAL IN MURDER CASE
Fri, 27 Feb 2009
SANTA ROSA (BCN)
A judge today ordered two Sonoma men accused of killing a woman and then burning her Santa Rosa-area home to cover up the crime to stand trial.
John Michael Wayne, 34, and Steven Joseph King, 28, will stand trial for murder, robbery, burglary, arson and cruelty to animals. Two pets died in the fire at 52-year-old April Denton's Mountain View Avenue home on Jan. 22, 2006.
Testimony during a two-day preliminary hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court that ended today indicated that Wayne and King drove to Denton's home in Wayne's Chevrolet Suburban. King dropped Wayne off but returned later to pick him up.
Wayne allegedly had blood on his pants and the two drove to a gas station to fill water bottles with gas. The men then allegedly drove back to Denton's home, Wayne went into the house and King returned later to pick him up.
Denton's body was found in a bedroom of the house by firefighters. She had been shot in the neck.
Wayne told King to dispose of the .32-caliber pistol and King later led sheriff's department investigators to a spot in San Pablo Bay where he threw the gun that belonged to Wayne and a knife, according to the testimony.
Deputy Public Defender Amy Chapman argued that King feared Wayne and considered him a cold-blooded killer. She said King did not know Wayne intended to kill Denton, only steal her morphine and OxyContin pills, which she had been selling to supplement her income. Chapman said King never entered Denton's home during the two times he drove Wayne there.
Wayne's attorney Marie Case said the case against her client is built on "self-serving hearsay." She said no proof was presented the gun found in the Bay is the actual murder weapon. Case also suggested there might be jealousy between the two men because they had both dated the same woman.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner told the judge that although King did not shoot Denton, he was the "wheelman" and he aided and abetted the crimes and disposed of the murder weapon.
Judge Dean Beaupre ruled sufficient evidence was presented to hold both men to answer to the seven felony charges. Wayne and King will re-enter pleas March 13. They are being held in the Sonoma County Jail.
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Witnesses testify victim of '06 Santa Rosa slaying sold morphine prescription
By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 10:59 p.m.
Suffering daily pain from a long-ago back injury, April Denton had a prescription for 300 morphine pills each month. To supplement her income, she began selling her extras, according to court testimony Thursday.
Those pills apparently got her killed, witnesses said in a preliminary hearing for two men accused of murder.
Denton, 52, was shot in the neck Jan. 22, 2006, and her rented house in south Santa Rosa set afire in an apparent effort to cover up the crime. Two men were arrested late last year after investigators determined they’d pulled together enough evidence to charge them with her murder.
In court Thursday, witnesses connected John M. Wayne, 38, and Steven J. King, 28, to Denton’s death and to the arson that killed her two beloved dogs.
Wayne and King are charged with murder, armed robbery, burglary arson, animal cruelty and carrying a loaded gun. They could face life in prison if convicted.
After Denton’s back injury more than a decade ago, her only income was from state disability and Social Security, her son, Benjamin, testified.
He said he sometimes stole and lied to get pills from his mom, and she began selling them to other people for at least $12 a pill, he said.
She was supposed to take 10 pills a day, he said, but she would only use seven. That left her with about 90 morphine pills a month to sell.
Benjamin Denton, 25, introduced her to Wayne, a man he’d met at a video store in Sonoma. Wayne was also addicted to opiates, Denton testified, and tried to buy the morphine tables from April Denton several times. At least once, Benjamin was the go-between, he said.
“We did lots of things together, but one mutual interest was opiates,” he testified. “Most commonly used were pain medications, either oxycontin or morphine.” While Benjamin was in an in-patient rehab center, Wayne apparently went to the home to get “dope,” one witness testified.
Wayne, King and the witness, Johanna Persi, 20, drove to the Mountain View Avenue house sometime during the night of Jan. 21 or morning of Jan. 22, Persi said. She said she didn’t question why Wayne said he needed a ride to the house even though they went in his vehicle.
She and King dropped off Wayne near Denton’s house, smoked methamphetamine and returned several minutes later to pick Wayne up. But when they arrived, they saw several patrol cars, she testified.
“Did you say, ‘Holy cow, there’s the cops?’” prosecutor Bob Waner asked Persi. She replied that she and King didn’t really discuss what was happening and drove Wayne’s Suburban back to their homes near Sonoma.
When they returned to Santa Rosa to pick up Wayne, they stopped at a gas station to buy fuel and went back to Denton’s, Persi said.
She said King told her later that someone had been murdered at the house. King told her, “no life is worth that,” meaning the pills, Persi said.
“You knew John (Wayne) was going to torch the house?” King’s attorney, Amy Chapman asked her. “Yeah, I guess so,” she replied.
She said Wayne and King discussed what to do about Denton’s two dogs. Persi said she told them, “They should get out. They shouldn’t die.”
Under cross-examination by Wayne’s attorney, Marie Case, Persi admitted she lied to police to protect herself and got rid of a pair of gloves she believed were King’s to “cover” for him.
An arson investigator testified that flammable material was found in several places inside the house. Denton’s body was found in her bedroom. A gun believed to have been used was fished out of San Pablo Bay several months after the crime.
Wayne and King have pleaded not guilty and are being held in Sonoma County Jail without bail.
The hearing continues today. Judge Dean Beaupre will then determine if there is enough evidence to hold the men over for trial.
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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November 7, 2008
Sonoma pair arrested for 2006 murder
Neal Ross Sonoma Valley Sun
Two Sonoma men were arrested Tuesday in connection with a 2006 murder of 52-year-old April Denton of Santa Rosa.
John Michael Wayne, 34, and Steven Joseph King, 28, were booked into Sonoma County jail on charges including murder, robbery, arson and animal cruelty, according to sheriff’s Lt. Chris Spallino. No bail amount was set.
Denton’s charred body was discovered by firefighters in the smoldering ruins of her Mountain View Avenue home between Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park on Jan. 22, 2006. A subsequent autopsy revealed that Denton had died of a gunshot wound to the head, and an investigation of the crime scene determined that the fire had been intentionally set, Spallino said. He said Denton’s pets also died in the blaze.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Violent Crimes Investigations Unit were put on the suspects’ trail, and worked for several months to gather enough evidence for filing a criminal complaint. Wayne was located and arrested in San Francisco without incident. King, who was in custody at the Marin County Jail on unrelated charges, was arrested on the Sonoma County warrant. Both suspects were transported back to Sonoma County, Spallino said.
Spallino added that anyone with information regarding this incident should contact the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department Violent Crimes Investigations Unit at 707.565.2185.
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Aril 4, 2008 Press Release from the Sheriff's Department
County of Sonoma
2796 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
www.sonomasheriff.org Bill Cogbill
On Tuesday, November 04, 2008, detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department Arrested John Michael Wayne, age 34 from Sonoma, and Steven Joseph King, age 28 also from Sonoma, in connection with the January 2006 murder of April Denton.
On January 22, 2006, firefighters responded to a structure that was engulfed in flames in the 400 block of Mountain View Avenue. While extinguishing the blaze, firefighters discovered Denton's deceased body. A subsequent autopsy revealed that Denton had died of a gunshot wound to the head. An investigation of the crime scene determined that the fire had been intentionally set, presumably to cover-up the murder.
Soon after the investigation began, Detectives from the Department's Violent Crimes Investigations Unit were on the trail of the suspects. After a short amount of time, Detectives had gathered the physical evidence and obtained statements that identified Wayne and King as being responsible for Denton's death and the subsequent cover-up. Over the next several months detectives continued to work diligently to gather enough evidence to ensure a criminal complaint would be filed.
On Tuesday, November 04, 2008, The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office filed a criminal complaint against Wayne and King for their involvement in the murder. Detectives were able to obtain arrest warrants for both suspects.
Wayne was located and arrested in the City of San Francisco without incident. King, who was in custody at the Marin County Jail on unrelated charges, was arrested on the Sonoma County warrant. Both suspects were transported back to Sonoma County.
Both suspects will be held without bail at the Sonoma County Adult Detention Facility on charges including murder, robbery, arson, and animal cruelty (in regards to Denton's pets that perished in the fire).
If you have any information regarding this incident please contact the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department Violent Crimes Investigations Unit at 707-565-2185.
For further information regarding this press release, please contact Lt. Chris Spallino at 707-565-2185.
Prepared by Lt. Chris Spallino
Report number 060122-011
Posted on 04 Nov 2008