CHULA VISTA, Calif. (CNS) — An appellate court panel upheld the murder conviction Friday for a man found guilty of stabbing his Chula Vista housemate 66 times, then dumping his body into San Diego Bay in a barrel.
Timothy John Cook was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 56 years to life in state prison for the killing of 28-year-old Omar Medina.
According to prosecutors, Medina was killed on Sept. 30, 2017, but his body was not discovered until Oct. 12 inside a 55-gallon drum spotted floating in the bay. He had been stabbed in the chest, back, neck, and head.
Prosecutors alleged Cook enlisted Derrick Spurgeon, who owned a boat, to take the barrel out into San Diego Bay, help weigh down the barrel and dump it into the water. Spurgeon later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully disposing of a dead body and was sentenced to six months in county jail.
At trial, Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville alleged 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 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.
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.
At his sentencing, Cook's defense 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 bad prior experiences with police and 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."
A three-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected Cook's contentions that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, ruling that his "actions and statements before and after the murder provide abundant circumstantial evidence that he committed it."