Change of Venue Denied for Drifter’s Sanity Trial
The sanity trial for a Wisconsin drifter who confessed to killing 9-year-old Matthew Cecchi in a public beach restroom last November will remain in San Diego County.
Public defender Curt Owen requested a change of venue for the trial of Brandon Wilson, saying it would be impossible to find an impartial jury locally because of all the media attention.
“There has almost been an adoption of the Cecchi family by this community,” Owen said outside the courtroom. “That will make it very difficult for people in this community to put that aside and view it as they might if this had happened in Seattle.”
But Superior Court Judge John Einhorn ruled Friday that the trial, set to begin Aug. 23, will remain in Vista, about 45 miles north of San Diego. He said news coverage of the case has been extensive, but not sensational.
Prosecutor David Ruben said change of venues are very rare in San Diego County because judges believe a fair jury can be found within its population of nearly 3 million people.
Wilson is charged with first-degree murder with special circumstances of lying in wait and using a knife. He has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.
Jurors will decide whether Wilson was sane at the time of the killing. If found insane, Wilson will be sentenced to a state mental hospital. If found sane, a jury will then decide whether he should receive life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Wilson, 20, said nothing during the one-hour hearing. His head was shaved, and he was chained at the waist, wrists and ankles.
Wilson of St. Croix Falls, Wisc., confessed to killing the boy when he was arrested two days after the murder in Hollywood. He had tried to rob a woman at knifepoint.
He told police he had been at the beach looking for a victim and noticed Matthew. When he overheard the little boy tell his aunt that he needed to go to the restroom, Wilson said he knew he had an opportunity to kill.
He followed the boy into the restroom and smiled at him so he wouldn’t be suspicious. When the boy looked away and faced the urinal, Wilson said he took a hunting knife from his belt, pulled back the boy’s head and slashed his throat.
Matthew was camping in a recreational vehicle with his mother and 3-year-old brother as part of a weekend family reunion at Oceanside. The family’s home is in Oroville, north of Sacramento.