People v. Dominick

Decision Date30 June 1986
Citation227 Cal.Rptr. 849,182 Cal.App.3d 1174
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Michael James DOMINICK, Steven Michael Romero, Clifton J. Shedelbower, Defendants and Appellants. Crim. B003318.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Frank O. Bell, Jr., State Public Defender, Richard Avila, Deputy State Public Defender, James A. Goldstein, Los Angeles, and Dennis L. Cava, for defendants and appellants

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Gary R. Hahn, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., and William V. Ballough, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

BOREN, Associate Justice. **


In this consolidated appeal, defendants Michael Dominick, Steven Romero and Clifton Shedelbower raise numerous challenges to the judgments in which each received a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. We affirm the convictions.


After a severance was granted as to defendant Shedelbower, defendants Dominick and Romero were tried by separate juries in a joint trial. Thereafter Shedelbower waived jury and his case was submitted on various transcripts, including the transcript of the co-defendants' trial.

All three defendants were convicted of the first degree murder of Danny H. with special circumstances (witness killing and killing while engaged in flight from commission of rape and other felony crimes) (count I). They were also each convicted of kidnapping (count II), rape (count IV), and oral copulation in concert (count VI). In addition, Dominick was convicted of sodomy (count V) and Romero and Shedelbower were convicted of the attempted murder of Kim M. (count VII), who was the sex crimes victim. Great bodily injury allegations were found true as to Romero and Shedelbower on the kidnapping and as to Romero alone on the attempted murder. On that latter charge, Romero was also found to have used a knife. Dominick had not been charged with the attempted murder, and Romero and Shedelbower were acquitted of sodomy. Defendants were also acquitted on various other enhancements allegations.

Each defendant was sentenced to state prison for life without the possibility of parole which sentences were consecutive to determinative sentences of 32 years as to Dominick, 31 years and 8 months as to Romero, and 29 years and 4 months as to Shedelbower.


In the early morning hours of Sunday, November 29, 1981, Kim M., 18 years old, and her 16-year-old friend, Danny H., the murder victim, drove in Kim's Datsun station wagon to a mountain-top location overlooking both the San Fernando Valley and Kim and Danny parked near the main facility at about 3 a.m. and within a few minutes a white van pulled diagonally in front of the station wagon. A man wearing a dark jacket with a fur collar and a badge whom Kim later identified as Romero approached the station wagon and told the couple they were trespassing. After Romero obtained identification from the two, a second man came toward them with a flashlight and asked if they had any weapons. This man wore a green jacket with green pants and spoke with a southern accent. Although Kim testified that Dominick was this man in green, other evidence at the trials showed that he was in fact Shedelbower. According to Dominick's sister, both Dominick and Shedelbower had left her home for the ITT mountain-top facilities very early on that Sunday morning. Shedelbower, who had a southern accent, was then wearing green clothing. 1 Dominick was wearing dark clothing including his fur-collared security guard jacket.

the Saugus/Newhall area. In the vicinity were radar testing facilities operated by ITT Gilfillan Corporation (hereinafter ITT). These facilities had formerly been part of a Nike missile base and included a main facility designated as the Upper Loop Canyon site and another facility containing missile silos at a nearby site called Lower Loop Canyon. ITT employed 24-hour uniformed security guards who made rounds of the facilities in a white van. They operated from a guard house at the main ITT facility.

Romero told Kim and Danny to follow him so that he could check them out on "the main computer" to insure they were not spies. The couple then followed the white van down to the lower facility with the missile silos where one of the defendants unlocked a gate so the vehicles could be parked inside the fenced compound. A third man, Dominick, whom Kim had not noticed until then, led Danny inside a nearby building. Dominick was dressed in a dark fur-collared security jacket similar to Romero's but displayed no badge.

Shedelbower and Romero, using a flashlight, then led Kim down into what was later determined to be an empty missile silo. As she was being led down some cement stairs, Kim hesitated, and Romero swung a three-foot long white pole or pipe at her. In fear she descended the remaining stairs, arriving in a large room with a cement floor. Her glasses were removed and she was made to undress. Shedelbower then fondled her and forced her to orally copulate him, after which he raped her.

Shedelbower told Romero to "try her out," made degrading remarks to the victim, and taunted her because Kim, who until then had been a virgin, was now bleeding from her genitals. Romero then raped Kim and forced her to orally copulate him.

At about this time, Dominick appeared in the silo and he too forced the victim to orally copulate him. Then he raped her and, following that, turned Kim on her stomach and sodomized her.

Shortly, Shedelbower told Kim she had 30 seconds to get dressed. She was taken outside and placed in the rear of the white van. A few minutes later Shedelbower removed her and placed her in her station wagon. At this time Kim noticed Danny with his head and arms stuck through a ladder leaning against the building he had entered earlier. She could not tell if Danny was tied to the ladder. Romero was standing near him.

Danny was then brought to the station wagon. He was bleeding from the nose and slumped over the steering wheel. Moments later he was made to sit on Kim's lap in the front passenger seat while Shedelbower drove the station wagon down the mountainside with the van leading the way. After approximately 10 or 15 minutes, Shedelbower honked the horn and the van and station wagon stopped. Shedelbower led Danny to the front of the van and Kim Shortly Romero came toward her holding the white pole and stated, "Now its your turn." Shedelbower got behind her and after taking hold of her by her arms, pulled her head back by her hair. As Romero swung the white pole at her in an apparent attempt to "hit [her] throat," she turned her head and screamed and a blow was struck to the right side of her face. At that moment, Kim somehow managed to break free and fell off the roadway partway down the mountainside.

                heard Romero tell him to "lie down on the ground."   Kim saw Romero make striking motions with what appeared to be the white pole she had seen earlier and heard the noise of Danny being struck.  Shedelbower, in the meanwhile, was standing beside Kim as she stood near the Datsun on the roadway.  She turned her head away from Danny and Shedelbower asked her what she was thinking about.  She replied that it was really cold out and they were going to kill her

She heard a voice say, "What did you let her go for?" and another voice replied, "She broke free." She heard someone say that they had to find her and then heard someone yell the name "Mike." Testimony at trial indicated that Romero used the first name of Steve, that Shedelbower used the first name of Cliff, and that Dominick used the first name of Michael or Mike. Kim lay on the hillside until one of the three men approached her and felt her arm, apparently for a pulse. She feigned lifelessness and the individual who had found her yelled up the hillside that she was dead and then departed. Moments later she heard voices saying that they would not drag her back up but would push the car off the cliff close to her to make it look as if she had fallen out. She also heard a voice say that Danny was not dead yet and someone else replied that "they were going to kick the son-of-a-bitch to death." She then heard the men say to put Danny in the car and lock the doors. She also heard one of the men say they had "to be back by five." Moments later she heard the Datsun go "over the cliff" and then she could hear the wheels of the Datsun as they spun around after it had come to rest. This was followed by the sound of the van starting up and departing.

Kim lay in the quiet for approximately 15 minutes and assumed that it was close to 5 a.m. The victim then struggled up the side of the mountain arriving on the roadway just as the sun was coming up. She was unable to spot the Datsun station wagon and so started down the roadway half walking and half running.

After about ten minutes, she heard the sound of an engine and turned to see a white pickup truck coming up from behind. She went over the side of the hill and slipped partway down to hide. She heard one of two men ask if she needed help and then she saw a hand extended over the edge of the roadway to her. Too late Kim, who was still without her glasses, realized to her horror that the two men were Romero and the man in the green clothing (i.e., defendant Shedelbower). Romero had a sharp shiny object with which he stabbed her in the chest three times. She fell backwards partially down the hillside once more. She heard someone yell, "Make sure she's dead this time." She then arose and began running and screaming down the hill further. Near the bottom of that hill she stopped as Romero closed in on her and she asked him, "to let me alone, let me die in peace." Romero put his arm down and said, "I'd like to but I can't." Kim then became angry and started hitting him. She related that she "reached for his...

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