On the night he allegedly raped and killed 21-year-old Jessica Bergsten in his Carlsbad condominium, ex-skateboarding star Mark (Gator) Anthony bound the woman’s body with metal handcuffs and leather shackles, according to court testimony heard Monday.
Carlsbad police Detective Richard Castaneda told a packed Vista courtroom that the former skateboarding phenomenon-turned-born-again-Christian detailed the killing in a taped confession with investigators after turning himself in to San Diego police May 8.
During the confession, Castaneda testified, the 24-year-old Anthony also admitted that, a week before the murder, he drove to Temecula in an unsuccessful attempt to kill his former girlfriend, Brandi McClain, because of her refusal to undergo a religious conversion with him and because he believed she had had sex with another man.
In what authorities have termed a revenge killing, Anthony has been charged with the rape and murder of Bergsten, a 21-year-old model from Pacific Beach and a close friend of McClain.
After a three-hour preliminary hearing Monday, Municipal Judge Michael Burley bound Anthony over to stand trial next month in Vista Superior Court. He has been held in County Jail in Vista in lieu of $1.5 million bail since the week of his arrest in early May.
Prosecutors allege that Anthony, believing Bergsten to be responsible for his breakup with McClain, strangled the woman after striking her over the head with a car steering wheel lock and then raping her for several hours in the bedroom of his Carlsbad home.
Then he allegedly buried her in the desert before turning himself in several weeks later.
However, Deputy Public Defender John Jimenez told the court Monday that his client is innocent and never confessed to murder in his statements to authorities.
“He didn’t intend on killing her,” he said in a later interview. “We don’t think there was ever any intent involved. This well could have been accidental.”
During the proceedings, Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Walden, who is seeking life imprisonment without parole for Anthony, twice instructed Detective Castaneda to read from a transcript of the alleged confession in which Anthony used the term murder .
“He said, ‘And so I took everything involved with the whole murder, the whole evening and got rid of it,’ ” Castaneda quoted Anthony as saying as he read from the transcript.
Walden said outside the courtroom that he saw no need to play the actual recording of Anthony’s confession--which reportedly contains graphic details of the incident--at the preliminary hearing. “We’ll play it at the trial,” he said.
Anthony, dressed in a crisply tailored suit, made no statements during the proceedings, which were attended by his mother and brother as well as a standing-room-only throng of friends and supporters--mostly teen-agers, some with dreadlocks and flaming orange hair, dressed in black denim, tie-dyed outfits and leather buckles.
In all, Monday’s hearing included testimony from four witnesses, including a Pacific Beach neighbor who testified that he saw Bergsten with Anthony a short time before the killing, and a San Diego man, who, along with his 11-year-old son, discovered Bergsten’s skeletal remains in a shallow desert grave near Ocotillo in Imperial County.
Castaneda described Anthony as “pleasant, polite and a little nervous” as he related his tale to police investigators.
According to Castaneda, this was what Anthony told police:
Bergsten called him to have lunch, not knowing that a week before he had sought to kill McClain. A few days later, he picked her up at her Pacific Beach apartment and, after a meal in La Jolla, drove Bergsten to his Carlsbad condo.
After watching videos and drinking four glasses of wine, he began to feel the effects of the alcohol and decided to drive Bergsten home. He walked out to the car to see if his driver’s license was there but instead returned with the heavy steering wheel lock.
He struck Bergsten over the head with the device, then placed the handcuffs on her body, took her upstairs and applied the shackles after cutting off her clothes with scissors.
He then raped her for two to three hours and placed her in a surfboard bag after she began to scream. When Bergsten cried out that she couldn’t breathe, he strangled her, then loaded the body into the trunk of his car and drove to the desert.
After burying Bergsten, he drove to Phoenix--at times throwing evidence out the window--leaving the shovel used in the burial in a downtown trash bin there.
Anthony said he then drove back to San Diego, where he attempted to eliminate evidence of the crime, Castaneda said in concluding Anthony’s purported confession.
At one point, Jimenez objected to the introduction of details of Anthony’s purported confession, saying the prosecution must first deliver evidence that a crime has been committed. The fact that Bergsten’s unclothed body was found in the desert does not suggest she was murdered, he argued.
Judge Burley called a 10-minute recess to research the claim, then overruled the objection.
Jimenez then suggested to Castaneda that he did not properly advise Anthony of his rights before listening to the confession, which was allegedly given after Anthony showed up at San Diego police headquarters the early morning of May 8.
Castaneda responded that, although Anthony was not under arrest at the time of his statements, he had read and signed a document advising him of his rights to an attorney before discussing the case with investigators.
Anthony’s trial is scheduled to begin July 1 in Vista Superior Court.