While his brother choked their mother to death, Matthew Montejo watched television in another room. And when the brother chopped off her head and hands in the bathroom, he stepped outside.
It wasn’t until hours later, when his brother asked him to help dump some trash, that the boy, then 15, started to worry.
So went the youth’s testimony Thursday. Montejo told jurors in a Santa Ana courtroom that Jason Victor Bautista, now 22, killed their mother in January 2003 and then duped him into helping dispose of the body.
Montejo, now 17, told his version of that Jan. 14 evening, the early-morning dumping of their mother’s body into an Orange County ravine and Bautista’s love of “The Sopranos” TV series -- believed to have inspired him to dismember Jane Bautista, 41.
Police found the woman’s head and hands in a hall closet in the family’s Moreno Valley apartment, where, during the week between the killing and the brothers’ arrest, Montejo said he was able to block out the slaying and have friends over for the first time in his life.
Bautista’s attorney has said that his client did not mean to kill his mother but that he lashed out after years of physical and emotional abuse.
On Thursday, the brothers, who hadn’t seen each other in several months, traded long, emotionless stares throughout Montejo’s three hours of testimony. The roughly 20 courtroom spectators strained to hear Montejo as he described the months leading up to his mother’s death.
Jason Bautista had long felt that his mother made their lives too unpredictable because her paranoia always made her want to move, Montejo said. In December 2001, he said, his brother told him “he wanted to kill her, pretty much. He said things would get better if it happens.”
Life settled down a couple of months later after they moved into an apartment on Alessandro Boulevard, until their mother brought up moving again, Montejo said.
That upset the brothers, he said, with Bautista repeating over the following months that he wanted to kill her. Her behavior allegedly stressed him out too much, making it difficult for him to study and work. At one point, Montejo said, his brother planned to start a fight with his mother after baiting her; then he would choke her. He asked his younger brother to help hold her down, Montejo said.
“I said, ‘Hell, no. That’s your thing,’ ” he testified.
About that same time, Bautista was downloading episodes of “The Sopranos” for the family to watch. Montejo remembered one episode in which a victim was decapitated to make it difficult for police to identify.
On the night of Jan. 14, Montejo said, his mother went on a bizarre rant, talking about conspiracies and stalking. “We both thought she was crazy.”
Jason Bautista started to disagree with her, but she told him that since he was part of a conspiracy against her, she was kicking him out of the house, Montejo said. Then, he said, she went into the brother’s bedroom and started packing his clothes, and Montejo went into his mother’s bedroom to play with the dog and watch TV.
After 15 or 20 minutes, he heard a thump but continued watching TV.
“I figured she left or something else happened,” he said. “I really didn’t care about it. I was on my TV show, zoned out. Multiple years of [arguing], you zone out.”
A few minutes later, he said, his disheveled-looking brother came into the room and told him to stay out of their bathroom. Montejo then took his wallet and went outside, but not before seeing drops of blood on the living room carpet.
When prosecutor Michael Murray asked Montejo why he left and didn’t ask what was going on, he replied: “ ‘Cause I wanted to. Bad vibes in there, arguing and stuff.”
Three hours later, he said, when he was back in the apartment watching TV, his brother said he needed help dumping something and to get in the car. As soon as Montejo saw the car, with its trunk sagging, he knew what had happened but didn’t say anything.
The radio played through the night as they drove around Riverside, San Diego and Orange counties, looking for a place to dump their mother’s body. There was no conversation, Montejo said.
After returning home, Montejo said, they slept on the floor in their mother’s room and finally talked the next morning in the kitchen.
Bautista told his brother that “he did what he said he was going to do,” Montejo said. “So you killed her?” the brother asked. He said Bautista replied, “Yeah, I choked her.”
Questioned by Bautista’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Don Ronaldson, Montejo defended his decision to testify against his brother.
Under a plea agreement, Montejo’s testimony means the murder charges against him will be dropped. He will be charged as a juvenile for accessory after the fact, probably getting him released soon after Bautista’s trial is over.
When the prosecutor asked Montejo early in his testimony why he wanted to speak in court, he replied, “To have the truth come out.”