A man was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday for stabbing his roommate 66 times at the Chula Vista home they shared, then disposing of his body by stuffing it into a barrel and tossing the 55-gallon drum into San Diego Bay.
Timothy John Cook, 54, was found guilty for the Sept. 30, 2017, killing of Omar Medina, 28, following about four days of jury deliberations.
The same jury panel deadlocked 10-2 in favor of guilt on an accessory after the fact charge against Cook’s co-defendant, Derrick Spurgeon, 40, who is accused of helping Cook dispose of the body by providing his boat to dump the barrel.
Cook is slated to be sentenced Jan. 6, while a Dec. 19 status conference was scheduled to decide how to proceed with Spurgeon’s case.
Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville told jurors in her closing argument that Cook killed Medina on or around Sept. 30 in the detached room of a home at 526 McIntosh St., where both men resided. The roommates also both worked at a scaffolding business for Cook’s younger brother.
Somerville alleged Cook killed Medina to gain access to around $84,000 the victim had recently received in a legal settlement. Text messages shared during the trial also indicated Cook disliked Medina’s frequent drinking and sloppy household behavior.
Medina’s family never heard from him after Sept. 30, and filed a missing person’s report soon afterward with Chula Vista police. His unlocked car was found about a week later on Oaklawn Avenue, not far from the home he shared with Cook. Numerous belongings, including his computer and guitar, were inside the vehicle.
On Oct. 12, 2017, his body was found inside a 55-gallon drum floating in the bay. Medical examiners said Medina had been stabbed in the chest, back, neck and head.
Defense attorney Kara Oien conceded in her closing argument that Cook disposed of the victim’s remains, but maintained that he didn’t kill Medina. Oien said that upon finding Medina’s body, her client “freaked out and panicked,” and did not contact police because he was worried he would be blamed for the killing and had prior poor experiences dealing with law enforcement.
The defense attorney argued the money motive was speculation on the prosecution’s part, particularly because Cook never accessed Medina’s bank accounts, though he did have pictures of Medina’s bank statements in his Google account.
“There is no motive,” Oien said. “The D.A. wants you to think there’s a motive because there’s no evidence of killing.”
Somerville argued Cook knew taking the money so soon after the murder would “set off red flags and alarm bells,” and thus, didn’t access the accounts as a cautionary move.
The prosecutor said that from Oct. 1 through Oct. 7, Cook told his brother he was out of town in Northern California, though he never actually left San Diego County. Instead, Somerville said Cook spent that week cleaning up the crime scene by tearing out portions of the detached room, as well as areas of Cook’s kitchen.
Oien argued Cook was merely making routine repairs to the home as part of a deal with the landlord for reduced rent.
On Oct. 11, prosecutors said Cook asked Spurgeon to assist him in towing the boat from Spurgeon’s home in El Cajon to San Diego Bay, where Spurgeon also helped Cook weigh down the barrel with a makeshift anchor made of wire and cinderblocks. The drum was located by another boater less than 18 hours after it was dumped.
Spurgeon’s attorney, Roland Haddad, argued throughout the trial that there was no way to prove that Spurgeon knew he was aiding a murderer by helping Cook dump the barrel.
Haddad cited how readily Cook lied to his own brother about leaving town, and stated that there was no way to know Cook also didn’t lie to his client about why they were dumping the barrel.