Pathologist Details Wounds
By Roya Aziz, October 9, 2002 09:33 AM
in Oakland Murder Trial
OAKLAND - The murder trial of three men charged with the 1998 killing of an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy continued here yesterday as a forensic pathologist testified that the officer died “within a few minutes” of being shot multiple times.
Deputy John Paul Monego was fired at six times during a robbery takeover at the Outback Steakhouse in Dublin on the night of Dec. 11, 1998. Ruben Eliceo Vasquez, 27, is accused of shooting Monego as he tried to enter the restaurant to follow up on a 911 call made by an employee inside the steakhouse.
Vasquez allegedly knocked Monego to the ground with one shot, then stood over him and fired at point blank range five more rounds, striking him in the torso, limbs and buttock, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Goodfellow
Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau pathologist Sharon Van Meter told jurors that Monego’s bullet wounds “could be consistent” with a 9mm handgun, the type of semi-automatic weapon used by Vasquez that night, Goodfellow charged.
The prosecution’s case, so far marred by inconsistent witness testimony and conflicting identification of the alleged suspects, currently centers around the gun.
Goodfellow stated in his opening statement last week in Alameda County Superior Court that the case began not in December, but one year earlier in 1997, when Vasquez allegedly stole the 9mm in question from a neighbor’s truck in Modesto.
Goodfellow said then that the evidence would point to “one inescapable conclusion” of the identity of Monego’s murder.
Miguel Galindo Sifuentes and Hai Minh Le, both 23 and from Turlock, also stand accused with Vasquez of first-degree murder with special circumstances, meaning that they qualify for the death penalty, if found guilty. Sifuentes and Le allegedly took part in attempting to rob the Outback and fled in a white Accord with Vasquez before police caught them.
As of yet, several witnesses have not identified any of the defendants in connection with the shooting or robbery, events that took place in a flurry of five minutes, according to defense evidence.
During Wednesday’s testimony, Goodfellow attempted to meticulously cover the details of Monego’s wounds, cataloging them against physical evidence, including the Dublin officer’s tattered and blood-stained sheriff’s uniform, placed on a mannequin.
Goodfellow presented other articles of Monego’s clothing, including a pair of torn black long johns and a black turtleneck that the Dublin officer wore on that cold December night. The prosecutor asked Van Meter to illustrate the gun shot wounds using another dummy that was pierced with five wooden dowels to illustrate the bullet’s path.
Van Meter said that a sixth bullet lodged in Monego’s vest and explained that two of the bullets tore straight through his heart and right lung, ripping his major organs and causing them to collapse. A lack of oxygen flow to his body ultimately killed him, Van Meter explained to the jurors, at whom she looked directly while describing her autopsy findings.
Monego’s mother Dorothy sobbed loudly when Goodfellow showed jurors autopsy photos of Monego’s face and chest, bearing incision wounds and chest monitors, remnants from the paramedics failed attempt to resuscitate him.
Behind her, Monego’s widow Tammy, a California Highway Patrol officer, wept quietly and covered her face with her hands during many moments in the trial.
Monego, 33, was the first Dublin police officer to die in the line of duty and the first Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy to die in 13 years, according to an obituary from the California Officers’ Peace Memorial. Monego, who is also survived by a son, Dominic, had worked in Dublin for only eight months before being gunned down.
Defense attorneys for the three Central Valley men are expected to cross-examine Van Meter today.