Sept. 19, 2013
Kit Stolz, OVN correspondent
The mother of the Ojai teen accused of stabbing and killing another youth testified in her son’s trial Wednesday afternoon in Ventura County Superior Court.
Prosecutor Thomas Dunlevy called Janine Arellanes, Alex Medina’s mother, to the witness stand. Arellanes testified that her then-14-year-old son called her early Sunday morning April 25, 2009 to ask for a ride. She said she picked him up not far from the 2400 block of Maricopa Highway at about 2 a.m. She drove him to their home, which was about five minutes away.
Medina is charged with first-degree murder with a “special circumstance,” of acting for the benefit of a criminal street gang for allegedly stabbing and killing Seth Scarminach.
“Did you ask him why he was out so late?” Dunlevy asked.
“I don’t remember if I did,” said Arellanes. “I just remember kind of getting on him. Asking him, ‘Why are you out like this?’”
“Did he say anything about what had just occurred?” Dunlevy continued.
“No,” answered Arellanes.
“Did you ask him if anything had just happened?”
“No,” Arellanes responded.
Medina reportedly went to sleep in his room. That morning, at 7:30 a.m., after Arellanes, her husband and four other children left the house to go for a hike five police officers burst in to the home at gunpoint, looking for evidence of the killing. Medina denied involvement and the knife was never found.
Detective Steven Jenkins, a gang investigator for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, was on duty in Ojai when Alex Medina was arrested. He testified Thursday that Medina was a member of the Ojai Surenos Locos (OSL). OSL is classified as a “criminal street gang” under state law, meaning that members have been convicted of serious gang-related felonies and the gang has a pattern of criminal activity.
If convicted of the “special circumstance” enhancement, 18-year-old Medina could be eligible for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In response to questions from Dunlevy, Jenkins said that in 2009, OSL was embroiled in a conflict with other Ojai gangs, including the Meiners Oaks Boys (M.O.B.), the Oak View Gangsters (OVG) and two other groups allied with a Hell’s Angels group in Ventura. Jenkins testified that Scarminach was associated with the M.O.B. group, which he said acted like a gang, but was not a “criminal street gang” under the definition of state law because it had not shown a pattern of criminal activity.
Jenkins testified that he considered the M.O.B. group a gang, with signs and a color (red). He said their territory extended from Nordhoff High School north on Highway 33, west to Rice Road, and south to Baldwin Road, on the west side of the Ojai Valley. Their rivals, the OSL gang, were associated with a much larger Southern California gang, the Surenos, which is allied with the Mexican Mafia. He said the OSL’s gang is blue, and their signs and iconography referenced the ‘East Side” or “Evil Side.”
“In the Ojai Valley, OSL territory is the city of Ojai and anything east,” he testified. “If you look at a map, you’ll see they claim the east side of the valley. If you talk to someone in Ojai about ‘East Side,’ they’ll know you’re talking about OSL.”
In pre-trial motions last week, Medina’s attorneys, Robyn Bramson and Scott Wippert, asked Judge James Cloninger to limit or exclude much of Jenkins’ testimony, arguing that it was “prejudicial but not probative,” because it did not go to prove the charges filed against Medina. Cloninger over-ruled most of the defense motions.
In testimony Wednesday, from police officers and crime scene technicians, the prosecution began to forge a chain of evidence from the discovery of a shoebox full of rap lyrics and gang writings — seized in Medina’s bedroom at his mother’s home on Tico Road the day after the murder — to a series of aggressive raps the prosecution quoted in its opening statement. In these songs, Medina, an amateur rapper, had boasted, “put me down for murder in the first degree,” and promised to, “leave blood dripping” from the scene of his crimes.
The prosecution went on to show the jury photographs of blood drops found leading from the scene of the stabbing, down the road toward Medina’s home, and of a bathroom where bandages bloodied from cuts on Medina’s hand were found. DNA from these blood drops was said to be identical with that of the victim and was mixed with blood containing DNA from Medina.
According to an emergency room doctor referenced by Dunlvey, this blood came from cuts on Medina’s hand that were “consistent with wielding a knife (in a stabbing), and having it slip, especially if there is no hilt guard.”