Murder case in which victim’s body was found in barrel goes to jury

Prosecutors say Timothy Cook killed Omar Medina and dumped his body into San Diego Bay; defense lawyers say the evidence doesn’t prove murder

The case involving two men accused in the stabbing death of a 28-year-old Chula Vista man, whose body was stuffed into a barrel and dropped into the San Diego Bay, has gone to a jury.

Jurors heard closing arguments this week from attorneys in the trial of Timothy John Cook, who prosecutors say stabbed his housemate 66 times, and Derrick Spurgeon, who is accused of helping to dispose of the body.

Cook, 54, faces a murder charge in San Diego County Superior Court. Spurgeon, 40, is accused of being an accessory after the fact.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Cherie Somerville argued that Cook was motivated by hatred and greed when he fatally stabbed his housemate, Omar Medina, on Sept. 30, 2017. The prosecutor contended that Cook was annoyed by Medina’s lack of cleanliness in the home they shared, and that Cook wanted to get his hands on an $80,000 legal settlement Medina had recently won.


Defense lawyers, however, said the prosecutor failed to prove that Cook was guilty of murder or that Spurgeon was aware of what was inside the 55-gallon drum when he drove the boat used to dump the barrel on Oct. 11, 2017.

“There is no witness, no murder weapon and no real motive,” said Deputy Public Defender Kara Oien, who represents Cook.

She said her client had helped Medina by giving him a place to live, and that the two had worked well together at a scaffolding business.

Roland Haddad, Spurgeon’s lawyer, argued that even though surveillance video played in court appeared to show the two men dumping the barrel off the coast of Chula Vista, there was no record of what they discussed.


“This is all speculation on what was said [between Cook and Spurgeon] even if anything was said,” Haddad said.

Somerville urged the jurors to use their common sense when looking at the evidence, including cellphone records indicating calls and texts between Cook and Spurgeon on Oct. 10, 2017. She noted that investigators found barrels, cinder blocks and a wire kit on Spurgeon’s property that were similar to those in which Medina’s body was found.

“None of that is a coincidence,” Somerville said. “Derrick Spurgeon knew exactly what he was helping Tim Cook do.”

The jury is expected to return to court Wednesday morning to resume deliberations.


Garrett writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.