For Immediate Release
Case # 06ZF0129

March 13, 2008

Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
Office: 714-347-8408
Cell: 714-292-2718

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



SANTA ANA – A disgruntled roommate was convicted today of stabbing and murdering his roommate on Halloween. Vladimir Benitez, 28, Huntington Beach, was found guilty of murder with a true finding on the sentencing enhancement for the personal use a deadly weapon, a knife. He faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in prison. As the defendant entered pleas of “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the trial will now move into a second phase, the sanity phase. The sanity phase is scheduled to begin Monday, March 17, 2008 in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.


The sanity phase is held after a defendant is convicted and only if the defendant pleaded “not guilty by reason of insanity.” During this phase, the jury considers evidence to determine if the defendant was legally sane at the time of the crime.  When a defendant pleads “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the burden is on the defense to prove that the defendant was more likely than not legally insane when he committed the crime.  To be considered legally insane, the defense must prove that the defendant had a mental disease or defect when he committed the crime, and also that this defect kept the defendant from understanding the nature of his act or from understanding that his act was morally or legally wrong. 


In October 2005, Benitez was renting a room in a Huntington Beach home. Numerous people rented rooms in the home, including Camilo Martinez-Santiago, 32, who shared a room with Benitez. Benitez became angry when he learned that the landlord was planning to discontinue his tenancy at the house because he was not liked by the other tenants. He left the home and did not return for several days.


Late in the evening of October 31, 2005, the last night of his tenancy in the house, Benitez returned to the house, took a knife from the kitchen, and stabbed Martinez-Santiago as he slept. The victim woke up and began screaming for help and Benitez fled the scene. The other roommates in the house heard the victim screaming and ran out of their rooms to help. The victim later died.


The defendant turned himself in to police at the urging of his family several weeks after the murder.


Senior Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste is prosecuting this case.