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Suspect admits killing LA bishop, prosecutor says

Policja przed domem biskupa Davida O'Connella w Los Angeles

Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press/East News

John Burger - published on 02/23/23

Carlos Medina charged with murder of Bishop David G. O'Connell, will be arraigned March 22.

The suspect arrested in connection with Saturday’s death of Los Angeles Bishop David G. O’Connell has admitted to killing the beloved priest, according to prosecutors.

Carlos Medina, 61, the husband of Bishop O’Connell’s housekeeper, was charged with one count of murder Wednesday. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference Wednesday that Medina admitted the killing to investigators, the Los Angeles Times reported

Medina, a handyman who did work at the bishop’s residence in the past, also faces a special allegation of using a firearm during the crime, Gascón said. If convicted on both charges, he could face 35 years to life in prison.

“I know this has been a shock for our community,” Gascón said. “This was a brutal act of violence against a person who dedicated his life to making our neighborhoods safer, healthier and always served with love.”

Arraignment set for March 22

O’Connell was found dead in his Hacienda Heights home on Saturday with multiple gunshot wounds. The LA Times quoted unnamed law enforcement sources saying the firearm involved was a small-caliber weapon and that “O’Connell’s wounds weren’t clearly visible to the deacon who first discovered the bishop’s body.” A deacon called on the bishop when the prelate failed to show up for an appointment earlier that day. 

“According to the sources, the bishop was shot five times,” the Times said. 

Medina appeared briefly in court Wednesday afternoon, where Judge Armenui Amy Ashvanian set bail at $2.3 million, the newspaper said. His arraignment was set for March 22.

Initial reports said that Medina was heard by a tipster muttering about the bishop owing him money, but investigators are still not saying much about a motive. An investigation is ongoing, including examination of firearms found in Medina’s home. 

Sheriff’s Lt. Michael Modica said at the press conference that when Medina was interviewed, he provided several reasons for the killing, but “none of them made sense to the investigators.”

“We don’t believe there’s any validity to the owing of money,” he said.

Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia told the Times that Medina “is presumed innocent and entitled to a vigorous defense.”

“We are sensitive to the impact this case has had on our community but at the same time caution against any rush to judgment, either by the public or the media, until all the facts are established in court,” the statement said.

Picture of suspect emerges

The Times reported other details about the suspect, saying he has a lengthy history of personal drug use arrests and convictions from 2005 to 2017. Detectives are investigating whether he had been using narcotics at the time of Bishop O’Connell’s killing, according to law enforcement sources.

Medina did not have a history of violent arrests, the Times said.

“In the unincorporated Torrance neighborhood where Medina and his wife rented a two-bedroom yellow stucco home, neighbors said the couple led quiet, ordinary lives and were friendly with their neighbors,” said the newspaper. 

“He never said anything offensive,” said Francisco Medina Lopez, 74, a neighbor who said he was friendly with Medina. “It’s so strange.” The paper continued:

Medina, who walked with a limp, was often seen tinkering on his cars or working on his yard, neighbors said. His wife was a fixture in the neighborhood who was frequently observed walking a large white dog that residents said belonged to the bishop.

The two neighbors would occasionally drink beers or share meals together, making small talk while listening to ranchera music.

Although Medina’s wife worked for the bishop, Medina Lopez said the couple didn’t seem particularly religious and didn’t bring it up in conversations or decorate their home with Catholic objects and images.

But Medina Lopez said he always thought well of his neighbor, who would sometimes give him a ride to the swap meet or nearby stores.

“He was your average older man, always talkative and in a good mood,” said Luis Lopez, who lived in a home behind the Medinas’ home. “He was a regular common man.”

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