Teenager Gets 15 Years in Beach Slaying

Times Staff Writer

A Ventura teen was ordered Monday to serve at least 15 years in state prison for his role in the beachside slaying of a homeless man a year and a half ago.

Timothy Becker, 19, 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, Robert Coffman, now 20, later returned and continued kicking Clark, who died of multiple injuries, including a crushed kidney, a broken rib and a possible skull fracture, according to the Ventura County medical examiner.

A jury found Coffman guilty of first-degree murder, and he is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Becker and another teen, Christopher Dunham, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after Coffman’s trial late last year. A fourth teen, Rocky Mattley, was convicted during a Juvenile Court proceeding last year.

Becker did not give a statement during his sentencing hearing Monday, but his defense attorney read aloud a letter from the teen in which he expressed remorse for Clark’s death.