An ex-con accused of attacking two people after departing state prison after his death sentence was overturned for the robbery-related shootings of three Indio residents re-entered a not guilty plea Thursday.
Fred Lewis Weatherton Jr., 72, was arrested on Nov. 18, 2018, in connection with an assault that allegedly occurred on or about that date in Indio, according to court papers.
Weatherton, who remains held on $1 million bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta, was ordered to return to court on April 19 for a trial-readiness conference.
Following a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio earlier this month, Riverside County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan found prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for the defendant to proceed to trial on one count of assault causing great bodily injury and two counts of criminal threats, along with a misdemeanor battery charge.
The criminal complaint lists two victims in the case — “Celestine H” and “Nicky S.” Prosecutors said Celestine and Weatherton were romantically involved until 1998. Specifics surrounding the alleged attack were unclear.
Weatherton was previously convicted for the Nov. 1, 1998, killings of Samuel Ortiz and Latonya Roberson, as well as the attempted murder of Nelva Bell. Weatherton was convicted of shooting the trio at Ortiz’s Indio home. Prosecutors contended it was over drug money.
Jurors convicted him in 2002 of two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and special-circumstance allegations of committing multiple murders and committing a murder in commission of a robbery. Jurors later recommended the death penalty.
However, those convictions were overturned by the California Supreme Court in 2014, which ruled that juror misconduct played a role in his conviction.
According to the court’s opinion, a juror referred to as “P.P.” told fellow panelists that he thought Weatherton was guilty before the trial was over, and talked about the case outside of deliberations, both of which are forbidden.
Weatherton received a pair of retrials in Riverside in 2017 and 2018, both of which resulted in deadlocked juries.
Prior to a third trial getting underway, Weatherton pleaded guilty in March 2018 to two counts of voluntary manslaughter, one count of attempted murder and one count of robbery.
In April 2018, he was sentenced to 23 years in state prison, but had already accumulated credit for time served for nearly the entire sentence, minus about seven months.
Weatherton was released to parole supervision on Oct. 17, 2018 — about a month before the alleged assaults — according to a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson.
The criminal compliant in Weatherton’s latest case states that he has felony convictions in both Los Angeles and Riverside counties dating back to 1973, many of which are for robbery.