A man who helped an acquaintance dispose of the body of a Chula Vista resident who was stabbed 66 times and stuffed into a barrel that was tossed into San Diego Bay was sentenced to six months in county jail on Thursday.
Derrick Spurgeon, 41, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully disposing of a dead body stemming from the death of 28-year-old Omar Medina, who was killed on Sept. 30, 2017.
The victim's roommate, Timothy John Cook, was convicted by a San Diego jury of second-degree murder and sentenced last year to 56 years to life in state prison.
Prosecutors said Spurgeon allowed Cook to use his boat and helped him weigh down a 55-gallon drum containing Medina's body, which was later found floating in the bay. When police pulled the barrel to the shore and opened it, they found a body inside, so badly decomposed that it took the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office about six weeks to identify. According to the autopsy report, Medina was able to be identified in part by fingerprints and the tattoo of a five-pointed star on his left ankle.
The pair were arrested after a diver spotted a suspicious plastic barrel with a hazard tag and a wireline attached to it in the water and reported it to authorities.
Spurgeon was tried as an accessory to murder charge, but jurors were unable to reach a consensus on the count, deadlocking 10-2 in favor of guilt, and he subsequently pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge.
In addition to the six-month jail sentence, Spurgeon is headed to state prison for more than a decade in connection with two unrelated robbery and drug-related cases. All three terms will be served consecutively, totaling nearly 11 years in custody.
Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville told jurors that Cook killed Medina to gain access to around $84,000 the victim had 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 the 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, Medina's body was found inside the 55-gallon drum floating in the bay. He had been stabbed in the chest, back, neck and head.
At his sentencing, Cook's attorney read a written statement from her client that stated he found Medina's body, disposed of it and failed to report what happened to police, mainly over fears that he would be blamed for the killing.
Cook's attorney, Kara Oien, conceded at trial that Cook disposed of the victim's remains but maintained he didn't kill Medina. She said that upon finding Medina's body, her client "freaked out and panicked."
Oien also argued the money motive was speculation on the prosecution's part, particularly because Cook never accessed Medina's bank accounts, though he did have images of Medina's bank statements in his Google account.
Somerville countered that 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. 1-7, 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 room where the killing occurred.