Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
|For Immediate Release|
October 19, 2006
THIRD-STRIKER TO FACE TRIAL FOR MURDERING 19-YEAR-OLD CASHIER AT 99 CENT STORE
SANTA ANA – Third-striker John Steadman Nilsen, 49, Marina Del Rey, will face trial for shooting and murdering a 19-year-old woman, Shawna Wolfgram, at a 99 Cent Store in Huntington Beach. Nilsen is charged with murder during the commission of a robbery and 2nd degree robbery with enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death and the personal use of a firearm. If convicted, he faces life in prison. Opening statements will begin this morning, October 19, 2006, at 10:00 a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Nilsen is a 3rd striker with six prior strike convictions for a 1978 rape, a 1984 robbery and residential burglary, and a 1989 kidnapping, robbery, and felony assault.
The People will present evidence that on January 29, 2004, Nilsen entered the 99 Cent Store on Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach and attempted to enter the “Employees Only” warehouse area. He is accused of pulling a gun on the manager when confronted and demanding to be taken to the safe where the store money was kept. As the manager escorted Nilsen to the front of the store, Nilsen encountered another employee, Geovani Fuentes, and is accused of demanding that Fuentes hand over his wallet. Nilsen is then accused of forcing Fuentes to lead him to the front of the store to the safe.
Once at the front, Nilsen is accused of turning the gun on Wolfgram, a 19-year-old female cashier who was in the process of a transaction with a customer, and trying to grab the cash drawer as Wolfgram was handing change to the customer. The victim grabbed the barrel of the gun and announced that the defendant was attempting a robbery. Nilsen is accused of shooting the victim once in the chest at close range and killing her, and then fleeing the scene. The defendant was later linked to the crime through video surveillance and ballistics and DNA evidence at the scene.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.