A detective testified Wednesday in the trial of accused mass murderer Kevin Cooper that Joshua Ryen, the young survivor of the 1983 Chino Hills massacre, told him three Mexican males committed the killings. But the investigator said he did not take 9-year-old Joshua's comments seriously because he had become convinced days earlier that Cooper, a black prison escapee, was responsible for the killings.
Hector O'Campo, a San Bernardino County sheriff's homicide detective, said that Joshua Ryen "mentioned three Mexicans" when O'Campo asked him "who did it" during a hospital interview on June 14, 1983.
However, O'Campo said he had decided sometime "between June 6 and 9, 1983" that Cooper was responsible for the crime. O'Campo said he called a friend of Cooper's in Los Angeles on June 9, 1983, the day Cooper was formally charged with the killings, and told her, "I know that he (Cooper) slaughtered those people."
On Stand All Day Cooper is charged with killing Doug and Peg Ryen, both 41; their daughter, Jessica, 10, and Christopher Hughes, 11, in the Ryens' Chino Hills home on June 5, 1983. Investigators said the victims were hacked with an ax and stabbed with a knife and ice pick. Joshua Ryen, the couple's 9-year-old son, survived the attack with a slashed throat and a head wound inflicted with the ax.
David Negus, Cooper's defense attorney, had O'Campo on the stand all day, pointing out what he said were inconsistencies in his testimony.
Several times O'Campo told Negus that Joshua Ryen never used the word "they" when describing the attack during the June 14, 1983 interview. But later in his testimony O'Campo said the boy mentioned the three Mexicans as his attackers and offered descriptions of the three.
Just what Joshua told investigators remains an issue in the trial. A Loma Linda University Hospital clinical social worker testified on Tuesday that the youngster told him three white men committed the attacks.
Another deputy who also testified Tuesday said Joshua told him initially that three white men were inside the house on the morning of the attack. But the deputy said the youth later told him the three men were Hispanics who had stopped briefly at the house on June 4, 1983, to talk to his father.
When the boy testified on videotape last month, he described his assailant only as "a shadow on the wall." In his opening statement, Negus told the jury that when he saw the murder suspect's photo on a television news program, the boy told a reserve deputy that Cooper was not the killer.
When Joshua was asked during his testimony about his early statement that three white men committed the killings, he said, "I really thought it was them, but after a while I saw on television (it) was Cooper."
Earlier in the day, O'Campo denied concealing information he got from the boy during a June 6, 1983 hospital interview. O'Campo said he didn't write a report about that interview until November, 1983, after he was ordered by a superior to do so.
Negus pressed him for details about the June 6, 1983, interview with the boy, but O'Campo said he could not remember what questions he asked the boy because he destroyed his notes. O'Campo said he could not recall asking Joshua Ryen any questions about the attack until the June 14, 1983 interview.
"Are you trying to cover up some information that you got from Joshua (during the June 6 interview) that you think would be harmful to the prosecution's case?" said Negus.
"No, sir. Not at all," said O'Campo.
O'Campo said he was aware that when Joshua Ryen mentioned the three Hispanics to the first deputy, the boy said the trio was driving a low-rider car. But when he questioned the youth on June 14, 1983, O'Campo said the boy told him the men were in a pickup truck with a camper shell.
Despite the discrepancies in the boy's descriptions of the vehicles, O'Campo said he did not think it was necessary to question the youth further about what the men were driving.
Negus said he planned to call a psychiatrist next week to testify about O'Campo's June 14, 1983, interview with young Ryen. The psychiatrist also took notes during the interview, Negus said, and the psychiatrist's notes contradict the information O'Campo put in a report about his conversation with the boy.