Tuesday, July 15, 2008

from DA -- Alvarez convicted of first degree murder for Metrolink crash

July 15, 2008
Jury recommends life without parole for convicted Metrolink killer

LOS ANGELES – A jury that convicted Juan Manuel Alvarez of the first-degree murders of 11 people who perished in a fiery Metrolink crash in January 2005 recommended today that he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Given the human suffering and loss of life inflicted by Alvarez, this case was appropriately put before the jury for a penalty decision,” said District Attorney Steve Cooley in a prepared statement. “Great credit should go to the Glendale Police Department investigators and Deputy District Attorneys John Monaghan and Cathryn Brougham of the Major Crimes Division.”

The jury reached the penalty verdicts after less than a half-day of deliberation. Alvarez, 29, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 20 by Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders, who presided over the nearly three-month trial.

The same jurors took just over a day to convict Alvarez last month of 11 counts of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of multiple murders. The nine women and three men also convicted him of one count of arson, but found him not guilty of one count of train wrecking. Jurors additionally found untrue the special circumstance of train wrecking.

The 11 victims were killed and nearly 200 others injured in the pre-dawn crash on Jan. 26, 2005, near Chevy Chase Drive. The Metrolink train derailed after hitting Alvarez’s Jeep Cherokee, which he had left on the track.

The train, which had just passed out of Glendale, was filled with early morning commuters bound for downtown Los Angeles. It was the worst Metrolink disaster since its trains started running in 1992.

Witnesses testified that Alvarez left the SUV on the track after dousing it with gasoline. He ran away, but was tracked down on the basis of various identification cards found at the scene.

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He was found at a friend’s home in Atwater Village, not far from the site of the derailment. Alvarez has remained in jail without bail since his arrest.

Killed in the crash were James Tutino, 47, a Sheriff’s deputy from Simi Valley; Scott McKeoun, 42, of Moorpark; Manuel Alcala, 51, of West Hills; Thomas Ormiston, 58, the train’s conductor from Northridge; Leonard Romero, 53, of Rancho Cucamonga; Henry Kilinski, 39, of Orange; Alfonso Caballero, 62, of Winnetka; Julie Bennett, 44, of Simi Valley; Don Wiley, 58, of Simi Valley; Elizabeth Hill, 65; and William Parent, 53, of Simi Valley. Many of the dead worked for various governmental agencies in and around Los Angeles.

Family members of the victims testified at the week-long penalty phase. Jurors began deliberations late yesterday and announced at 11:30 a.m. that they had reached a decision.

Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Criminal Justice Center
210 W. Temple St., 18th Floor
Los Angeles CA 90012
Phone: 213-974-3528
Email address: sandi@da.lacounty.gov

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