Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Defense Says Boyfriend May Be Killer of Martial Arts Instructor : Courts: Motion says the couple had an argument at a tae kwon do studio on the night of the woman’s slaying.
A defense attorney for a Santa Clarita martial arts expert accused of strangling a rival instructor out of professional jealousy wants to present a defense that may accuse the dead woman’s boyfriend of the killing.
Darryl Mounger, an attorney representing Stuart Milburn, 27, filed the motion this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying he wants to present evidence pointing to the possibility that Veronica Estrada could have been killed by her boyfriend, Eddie Hockaday, or by some unknown assailant.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Foltz, who is prosecuting the case, described the motion as “a joke” and allegations that Hockaday could be the killer as “lies” and a “red herring.”
Foltz said evidence supports the conclusion that it was Milburn who killed Estrada.
Estrada, 29, died of strangulation on Dec. 15, 1993, and her partially clothed and sodomized body was found the next morning among heavy brush along Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, according to authorities.
Prosecutors charged Milburn with the slaying, alleging he was jealous of Estrada’s professional accomplishments. Estrada, the American Taekwondo Assn.'s top-ranked female competitor in the second-level black belt division, had been named instructor of the year at Taekwondo USA in Canyon Country, where she and Milburn taught.
The defense motion filed in court Monday alleges that Hockaday, who lived with Estrada in a Canyon Country apartment, had a motive and opportunity to commit the murder.
The couple argued at the tae kwon do studio on the night of the killing, and witnesses saw an apparently upset Hockaday kick Estrada’s Toyota Tercel and then drive it away, according to the motion.
Hockaday testified in court Wednesday that he and Estrada were only “nit-picking” at each other in that incident and that he later called the studio to offer Estrada a ride home but was told that she had already left.
Mounger, in cross-examination, asked Hockaday what time he left the school, arrived home or tried to call Estrada, none of which Hockaday could recall.
“You don’t have a very good memory about much of this, do you?” Mounger said.
“After it happened I was pretty much out of it,” Hockaday replied.
Hockaday testified that after Estrada failed to come home, he drove her Toyota Tercel with the personalized license plate “TWST KCK,” which stands for “twist kick,” back and forth about 15 times between their apartment and the studio on Soledad Canyon Road. He testified that at no point did he stop the car.
Mounger’s motion alleges that three witnesses saw a car matching the description of Estrada’s Toyota parked on Soledad Canyon Road on the night of the slaying, including one witness who noticed the car had a personalized license plate.
According to the motion, four other witnesses driving along Soledad Canyon Road about the time of the killing spotted a white pickup truck parked in the vicinity of where Estrada was found.
Mounger also said that on Estrada’s leg was a smear of blood which does not match the blood types of Estrada, Milburn or Hockaday. Mounger contended that the blood smear indicates the killer could have been the unknown driver of the white truck. Judge Charles E. Horan is expected to rule on the motion after prosecutors have filed a written response, Mounger said.
Coroner’s officials estimate Estrada died about 8:15 p.m., and defense attorneys have maintained that Milburn was still at the martial arts studio at the time of the slaying.
However, Renee Flapper, a bookkeeper at the studio, testified Wednesday that she searched the studio between 8:10 and 8:20 p.m. on the night Estrada was killed, looking for Milburn, but could not find him.
Flapper also testified that on several occasions she had practiced a particular style of chokehold with Milburn, which he told her he could use to render someone helpless in six seconds.
Prosecutors allege Milburn employed a chokehold to strangle Estrada. However, an official from the coroner’s office previously testified that the wounds Estrada suffered on her neck were not consistent with the chokehold technique.
Ken Lewis, owner of the tae kwon do studio, also testified that Milburn and Estrada disliked each other and that he had to talk to both of them repeatedly about their behavior toward each other.
“He didn’t respect her ability to defend herself,” Lewis said.