A 57-year-old man was acquitted Thursday of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend 23 years ago in Anaheim.
John Andrew Augustin, however, still faces a count of involuntary manslaughter after jurors deadlocked 9-3 for conviction. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 29 to consider whether to go forward with the prosecution.
Augustin has been in custody since Dec. 8, 2015, and would have enough credits served behind bars if he were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which has a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King ordered Augustin, who was being held on $1,010,000 bail, released from custody.
Augustin is accused of killing 41-year-old hairdresser Irene Margarete Ruelaz on April 18, 1998.
The victim’s mother and daughter went to her apartment at 1871 W. Ball Road on May 3, 1998, and found her body in the closet, according to court records.
Her body was found face-down with all of the clothes in her closet on top of her, prosecutors said when Augustin was indicted for murder in January 2016.
The victim had been drinking and was dead for several days when her body was found, former prosecutor Larry Yellin, who is now an Orange County Superior Court judge, told City News Service in 2016. She had last been seen alive about two weeks earlier.
Augustin’s attorneys argued in court papers that initially her cause of death was determined to be acute accidental alcohol poisoning. But another review, in May of 2004, ruled the cause of death undetermined.
After Ruelaz’s body was found, police went to interview Augustin at a hospital in West Los Angeles, where he was recuperating after jumping off a bridge in Culver City April 23, 1998, according to the defendant’s attorneys.
A DNA match on a beer bottle found in the victim’s Cadillac prompted prosecutors to file a murder charge in 2015, his attorneys said. But Augustin told police he had used his girlfriend’s car occasionally, his attorneys said.