Trial set in bloody Linda beating death
Prosecutors say Cheryl Murphy's troubled life ended in a bloody beating last year inside a abandoned home in Linda at the hands of her new boyfriend, Daniel E. Shoats.
Murphy's mother, Elizabeth, said her daughter's life was a long series of disappointing decisions fueled by drug abuse, homelessness, unemployment and prostitution, but she didn't deserve the brutality that ended her life.
"She was a druggie and a hooker," Elizabeth Murphy said, "but, she was still a good person."
Shoats, 31, was ordered to stand trial for Murphy's death on Thursday in Yuba County Superior Court.
Murphy was found dead June 9 in a back bedroom of a dark, desolate house at 5563 Alicia Ave. Homeless people were known to squat there, authorities said during Shoats' preliminary hearing.
Yuba County sheriff's detectives testified that the 41-year-old woman was partially covered with a blanket. She was shirtless and disheveled, her hair matted with blood and vomit. Investigators said a bloody shoe print left on the woman's mangled face matched shoes Shoats was wearing.
Deputies also found a small black hair on Murphy's collarbone they said was consistent with Shoats' hair.
Shiloh Sorbello, deputy Yuba County district attorney, said Murphy died of blunt force trauma.
Numerous deputies and detectives testified Thursday. Several investigators said Shoats changed his story numerous times during interviews.
Shoats called 911 just before 4 a.m. and said Murphy, who was better known as "Monkey," was hurt inside the home, Sgt. Philip Spadini testified.
At various times, however, Shoats claimed he stumbled onto the body after looking for the woman for nearly two weeks, denied knowing her at all, said he had never been inside the house, then said he and Murphy were living there together and later insisted that Murphy was still alive.
Detective Art Williams said Shoats claimed NASA recruited him in the 1980s and hinted at a larger conspiracy.
"He said he knew things that I couldn't know," Williams testified.
Shoats was deemed competent to stand trial in August following a psychological evaluation.
Defense attorney Christopher Carlos noted that Shoats has consistently denied responsibility for Murphy's death, one of the few aspects of his story that hasn't changed.
Sgt. Wendell Anderson, the lead investigator, said Shoats was angry with Murphy because she kept offering him methamphetamine that he didn't want.
Carlos argued there was evidence that Shoats planned or even intended to kill Murphy, calling it a possible manslaughter, "at best."
Judge Julia L. Scrogin, citing a section of law that prevents judges from ruling on the degree of a homicide charge during preliminary hearings, bound Shoats over for trial on a single count of first-degree murder.
Shoats, due back in court Feb. 4 for arraignment, remains in custody without bail at the Yuba County Jail.
Elizabeth Murphy hopes Shoats sees life in prison.
"I don't know if he needs (the death penalty)," Elizabeth Murphy said, "but he doesn't need to be on the streets."
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.