‘Nightmare’ Killer Is Convicted of All Charges
A 19-year-old gang member who authorities said posed as horror-movie killer Freddy Krueger was convicted Wednesday of murder and five other felonies for a series of late-night attacks in a San Pedro neighborhood last winter.
A Compton Superior Court jury deliberated for three days before finding Angelo (Cave Man) Regino guilty of all the charges against him. Regino could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he returns to court Feb. 8.
The pudgy, round-shouldered teen-ager hung his head as the court clerk read the verdict. His mother, brother and sister wept and called out, “We love you, Angelo,” as Regino was led from the courtroom.
Regino was convicted of murder, attempted murder, two robberies and two attempted robberies, stemming from four separate attacks last January and February.
Victims testified that in at least three of the attacks Regino sported a dark fedora like the one worn by Freddy Krueger, the anti-hero killer of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films. And one man----who was robbed, forced to strip naked and shot at----said Regino cryptically told him that he was “Freddy.”
The series of attacks began Jan. 7, 1988. A passer-by discovered the bullet-torn body of Johnny Healey, 49, lying in the back of his pickup truck on 18th Street. Friends said the lifelong San Pedro resident was an eccentric who left his home and was sleeping in the truck after a fight with a roommate.
Healey died of eight gunshot wounds. A neighbor would testify later that, on the night of the murder, he saw Regino in a dark jacket and fedora near the pickup.
Just two blocks away, on that same night, 37-year-old Jerry Brookham was accosted after leaving a Pacific Avenue bar. He testified that he ran off after Regino ordered him to turn over his money.
In Front of Home
Another robbery occurred a month later just four blocks away, in front of Regino’s home on 17th Street. Reuel Cruz, 25, told jurors that he was walking home after making a call from a pay phone when Regino lunged at him from behind a hedge. The assailant brandished a .22-caliber rifle and ordered Cruz to the ground.
Cruz testified that a gunman wearing a bandanna mask stole his wallet and then laughed maniacally as he issued a series of contradictory orders: “Turn right. No, turn left. I said right. . . . “
Cruz said he was forced to strip naked in an alley, where Regino announced that he was “Krueger, Freddy Krueger!”
His tormentor ordered him to run, and as he did, Cruz said, bullets whistled past his head. He was not injured.
The night after Cruz was attacked, in the same neighborhood, Regino and a friend, Tomas Grajeda, brandished a rifle as they robbed a small market of $6,100. They fired a warning shot into the roof, but market owner Grace Kim was not injured. Grajeda pleaded guilty to the robbery in May and is serving a four-year term in a California Youth Authority facility.
Police said that three days after the market robbery they searched Regino’s apartment and found the rifle, a dark fedora and a blue bandanna. A police expert said ballistics tests prove that the rifle was the one used to kill Healey and to rob Cruz and the market.
Jury forewoman Jacalyn Ferguson said jurors reached the guilty verdict by relying heavily on the ballistics evidence. Testimony that the bandanna was covered with blood, consistent with Healey’s type A, was also damning, Ferguson said in an interview.
Deputy Public Defender Irwin Pransky argued that the .22 was a “neighborhood gun” and that Regino loaned the rifle to several friends who might have committed the crimes.
But when Regino took the witness stand last week, he refused to say who had borrowed the rifle. He testified that if he revealed who had borrowed the gun, he would be labeled a “fink” and possibly killed.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Carbaugh said after the verdict that an innocent man would have defended himself more vigorously.
“I don’t care how afraid you are of retaliation,” Carbaugh said, “if you are truly innocent, you would say so.”
Jurors felt the same way, Ferguson said.
“It was a mistake not to say anything,” Ferguson said. “He seemed very passive. It seemed as though he was ready to take the rap, whether he had done it or not.”
Regino’s family and friends testified that Angelo was with them on the night Healey was murdered and Brookham accosted.
But Ferguson said the other evidence convinced jurors that Regino was the assailant.
The jury found that Regino killed Healey during an attempted robbery--a special circumstance under a state law that requires Regino to be sentenced to death or to life in prison.
The district attorney’s office decided before the trial began not to seek the death penalty, because of Regino’s youth and relatively light criminal record, Carbaugh said. Regino’s only prior offense was a minor drug violation, according to a police report.
Superior Court Commissioner Anita Rae Shapiro can sentence Regino to less than life in prison only if she overturns the jury’s finding that Regino was attempting to rob Healey.
Pransky said he will ask Shapiro to overturn the entire verdict.