A Camp Pendleton Marine was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges of murdering his ex-wife and young daughter and seriously wounding another woman during a shooting in San Clemente in May.
At a preliminary hearing, South Orange County Municipal Court Judge Pamela Iles ruled Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Steven Gibson, 32, should be tried on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted second-degree murder and a special circumstances charge of multiple homicide.
If convicted, Gibson could face a life sentence without parole or the death penalty, although Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick K. Donahue said prosecutors haven't decided whether to seek the ultimate sentence.
Gibson, a 12-year Marine from Long Island in New York and a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War, has been held in Orange County Jail without bail since the May 29 shooting deaths of his ex-wife, Kristina Louise Gibson, 26, and his 5-year-old daughter, Amber Dawn Gibson. Wendy Lyndell Johnson, 32, who shared her two-bedroom apartment on Avenida del Poniente with the two victims for six months, was shot once in the chest.
Sheriff's detective Bob Blackburn testified Tuesday that Gibson first shot Johnson at point-blank range when she wouldn't let him inside the apartment.
As the woman fell to her knees at the doorway, Gibson went past her, saying, "Sorry, I'm going to talk to her," meaning his ex-wife, Blackburn said.
While the wounded Johnson went screaming down the steps to get help, Gibson shot his ex-wife and daughter in a bedroom, Blackburn said.
A blood test taken after Gibson's arrest showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.16, twice the legal amount to be driving, according to testimony.
Gibson's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Stephen J. Biskar, argued during the hearing that his client never planned to kill his ex-wife or child. Instead, he had gone to the apartment to apologize for an embarrassing run-in the night before with his ex-wife and her boyfriend, Biskar said.
Only hours before the shooting, Gibson had been at a barbecue talking excitedly about an upcoming training mission. Later, he asked a friend, Sgt. David Shuman, if he could tag along to a bar in Carlsbad, Shuman testified.
In making her ruling, Iles rejected such arguments about a lack of premeditation.
"He went there to kill them, there's no doubt about it," Iles said.
Gibson was arrested about an hour after the shootings while making a call to his mother from a pay phone in a Mission Viejo gas station. A loaded and cocked .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol was found on the seat of his truck, authorities said.
Gibson confessed to the crime while talking to his mother at the pay phone, authorities testified.
A motive was not discussed during the preliminary hearing, although neighbors, relatives and a Marine Corps spokesman have suggested that the Gibson marriage was rocky from its start on New Year's Eve in 1986.
Relatives said previously that arguments between the two escalated into violence every few months. When the couple lived on base, military police at Camp Pendleton had been summoned twice to quell domestic disturbances.
Gibson will be arraigned in Superior Court on Dec. 7.