HAWAII MAN AWAITING TRIAL FOR 1987 COLD-CASE MURDER OF STRIP CLUB OWNER FACES NEW CHARGES FOR SECOND SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES MURDER THAT SAME YEAR

OCDASeal

Orange County District Attorney
Press Release


Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701

For Immediate Release
Case # 08CF1591



 


April 23, 2010

Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
Office: 714-347-8408
Cell: 714-292-2718

Farrah Emami
Spokesperson
Office: 714-347-8405
Cell: 714-323-4486

HAWAII MAN AWAITING TRIAL FOR 1987 COLD-CASE MURDER OF STRIP CLUB OWNER FACES NEW CHARGES FOR SECOND SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES MURDER THAT SAME YEAR

 

SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) has filed an amended complaint charging a Hawaii man with murdering a Pasadena grocery store owner in 1987. The defendant is already in custody after being linked through DNA to the 1987 cold-case murder of a strip club owner. Richard Curtis Morris, Jr., 56, formerly of Pearl City, HI, has been charged in an amended complaint with two felony counts of special circumstances murder. The special circumstances for victim James Stockwell include murder in the commission of robbery, murder in the commission of rape, and murder for financial gain.  The special circumstances for victim Vincent Mejia include murder during the commission of robbery and committing multiple murders. If convicted on all counts, the defendant faces a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Morris is being held without bail and will be arraigned at a later date to be determined.

 

Buena Park Murder of James Stockwell

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on Jan. 2, 1987, Morris and an unidentified second man are accused of entering the Buena Park home of strip club owner James Stockwell. Morris and his accomplice are accused of binding and raping a female friend of Stockwell, who was in the home and did not know either of her attackers. The defendant is accused of murdering Stockwell, who was shot in the head. Morris and his accomplice are accused of stealing the victims’ personal items including jewelry and credit cards.

 

The Buena Park Police Department collected biological evidence at the scene, but DNA technology was not available at that time and the case went cold. In late 2007 or early 2008, Morris’ DNA was linked to the 1987 rape through the national DNA database, where his DNA had been submitted stemming from an unrelated case in Hawaii. The Orange County District Attorney filed murder charges on May 27, 2008. Due to the statute of limitations, rape charges could not be filed.

 

Pasadena Murder of Vincent Mejia

On May 15, 1987, Morris and a second unidentified man are accused of entering a small, family-run, Pasadena grocery store with the intent to rob the store clerks.  Morris and his accomplice are accused of demanding money from a clerk standing near the cash register.  When store owner Vincent Mejia tried to intervene, Morris and the second man are accused of murdering him by shooting him in the chest. The defendant and his accomplice are accused of fleeing the scene. Mejia died June 2, 1987, as a result of his gunshot injuries.

 

On Feb. 22, 1988, Morris was arrested and later convicted by the federal government on weapons charges. He is accused of keeping the firearm used in the murder of Mejia in his home, but was never charged with the murder.

 

After filing charges against Morris for the murder of Stockwell, the OCDA began re-investigating the murder of Mejia. The amended complaint charging Morris with that murder was lodged today. The OCDA will prosecute Morris for the murders in both Orange and Los Angeles County.