Man Gets 15 Years to Life in Death of Transient

Times Staff Writer

A Ventura man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his part in the beachside slaying of a homeless man was ordered Tuesday to serve at least 15 years in state prison.

Christopher Dunham, 20, was one of four teens convicted of murder last year for kicking, beating and throwing stones at 58-year-old Army veteran James Clark on June 30, 2001, as Clark lay in a sleeping bag near a popular surf spot in Ventura.

According to court testimony, the teens were headed to a beach party at Surfers Point when they came upon Clark. They kicked and stoned him, beat him over the head with a marijuana smoking device and stole a jar of pennies from his backpack.


At least one of the teens later returned and continued kicking Clark, who died of multiple injuries, including a crushed kidney, broken rib and possible skull fracture.

Dunham’s attorney, Willard P. Wiksell, called the slaying a “tragedy that shook this entire community.” Wiksell, who apologized on behalf of his client, portrayed him as a follower who got mixed up with the wrong crowd.

Wiksell said Dunham, who pleaded guilty before trial in October, has accepted responsibility for his role in Clark’s slaying.

Superior Court Judge Ken Riley imposed a mandatory 15-years-to-life prison sentence and ordered Dunham to pay Clark’s family $4,000 in restitution.