A 17-year-old Glendale boy will be tried as an adult in the Feb. 19 shooting death of his father, Oscar Salvatierra, a Filipino-American newspaper executive, a court ruled Monday.
Arnel Salvatierra, who is accused of killing his father in the family’s Glendale home and attempting to disguise the crime as a political assassination, was found unfit to be tried as a juvenile because of the nature of the crime and the sophisticated method with which it was carried out, Court Commissioner Robert B. Axel ruled after a two-day fitness hearing in Pasadena Juvenile Court.
Attorneys for young Salvatierra presented testimony from a psychiatrist and the boy’s mother contending that the alleged killing was the result of years of verbal and physical abuse that the entire family suffered at the hands of the elder Salvatierra.
However, the accounts of beatings and harsh discipline imposed by the 41-year-old newspaper executive was not enough to “justify the killing of a human being,” Axel said.
The death of Salvatierra prompted immediate international charges that the killing was committed by agents of former Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos, because the victim had worked for the Philippine News, a San Francisco-based weekly paper that had bitterly opposed the Marcos regime.
Salvatierra had received death-threat letters attacking the paper’s politics that police now say were sent by his son.
Arnel Salvatierra and his girlfriend, Teressa Kay Deburger, were arrested the day after the shooting. Deburger, 18, has been charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly returning the handgun used by Salvatierra to the home of a friend.
The friend, who knew both defendants, testified that Salvatierra admitted that he killed his father while the three were riding in Deburger’s car several hours after the shooting.
“I said, ‘Did you really do it?’ He said, ‘Yes,’ ” Misty Lee Dailey, 18, testified.
Police allege that Salvatierra used a handgun belonging to Dailey’s father to shoot his father three times in the face as he slept.
“He said that he tried to get a hot gun in East L.A., but he couldn’t find one, so I was the last resort,” Dailey told the court.
Dailey said Salvatierra did not fear getting caught, because of the political turmoil that was under way in the Philippines.
“He said it was the perfect crime,” she testified.
Trouble between Salvatierra and his father had existed for most of the boy’s childhood, his mother, Ligaya, testified. Until two years ago, Salvatierra was regularly beaten by his father with a belt and forced to remain locked in a closet for up to an hour as a punishment, she said. At other times, the elder Salvatierra beat and cursed at his three younger children and threatened to kill the entire family if she were to leave, the mother said.
“If I tried to stop him, he would beat me up and beat up the children even more,” said Ligaya Salvatierra, who admitted she told her son that she wished her husband would die.
Forensic psychiatrist William Vicary said that after interviewing young Salvatierra, he believed that the alleged crime was done to “free the family.”
A charge of first-degree murder against Salvatierra is expected to be filed today in Glendale Municipal Court, Deputy Dist. Atty. Antoinette Brown said. The charge will include an enhancement for use of a firearm, which could increase the possible prison term of 27 years to life by two years, she said.
Deburger is free on $5,000 bail and faces a preliminary hearing next week. She could serve up to three years in state prison if convicted.