An Escondido auto mechanic was convicted Tuesday of murder and sexual assault in the death of a transient whose body was found at a remote site in the East County.
Ronald Elliott Porter, 44, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Sandra Cwik, a 43-year-old transient whose body was found near Buckman Springs in 1988. Her case was investigated by the Metropolitan Homicide Task Force.
Five women testified during the trial that Porter assaulted them after he picked them up while they were hitchhiking. However the jury, after deliberating for about two days, acquitted Porter on five counts of attempted murder.
Although jurors said there was no question that Porter attacked the women between 1986 and 1988, they questioned whether his choking of the victims to unconsciousness rose to the standard necessary for attempted murder.
“I guess they think he didn’t intend to kill,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Dusek, who explained that he was not able to charge Porter with simple assault in these cases because the three-year statute of limitations had run out.
Porter, who was previously convicted on charges of sexual battery in another East County case, was also convicted of rape with a foreign object on both Cwik and one of the other women who was choked to unconsciousness.
Porter faces a maximum sentence of 31 years to life when he is sentenced by Superior Court Judge William H. Kennedy on Oct. 21.
Saying he was “obviously disappointed we didn’t get them all,” Dusek said that the lengthy sentence Porter will receive will protect the community.
Defense attorney Terry Kolkey also said he was disappointed with the verdicts.
In addition to the conviction in the murder charge, Kolkey said he has heard persistent rumors that the end of the trial would cause the Metropolitan Homicide Task Force to charge Porter with the murder of Donna Gentile, whose unsolved death has stirred much controversy within local law enforcement circles.
Gentile’s beaten and nude body was found near Sunrise Highway in the East County. Her mouth was stuffed with rocks in a sign some investigators read as meaning that she was killed in retribution for her testimony against San Diego police officers before the Civil Service Commission.
In addition to Gentile’s killing, the task force has investigated the murders of 45 women, many of whom were prostitutes and two-thirds of whom were discovered at remote sites in the East County. With the close of Porter’s case, the task force’s work has led to the convictions of nine men, each on charges of committing at least one slaying in the series.