OGDEN -- A judge has denied a motion for a new trial for Robert McCullar, who is serving 15 years to life for murder.
McCullar, 51, was found guilty by a jury in July 2011 of stabbing to death Filiberto Robles Bedolla, 49, on Dec. 22, 2009, in Bedolla's apartment at 2560 Adams Ave.
The motion contended the jury should have heard evidence regarding a woman named Donna Finch as a possible suspect.
The defense was not allowed to introduce detailed evidence about Finch, a downtown prostitute, such as a knife-point robbery of another man six months before the murder. The evidence was ruled inadmissible hearsay. Finch could not be located for McCullar's trial, and officials have said her whereabouts are still unknown.
"Recounting Ms. Finch's past conduct toward somebody else bears too remote and tenuous a connection to the actual murder to be more than marginally relevant and would only serve to confuse the issues and mislead the jury," 2nd District Judge W. Brent West ruled in his motion issued Monday.
West also ruled inadmissible testimony from a friend, who said Bedolla told him a day or two before he was killed that Finch had asked him for money. Bedolla told him that when he said no, Finch became angry and threatened to rob him.
West called that "double hearsay," only admissible as to the victim's state of mind, which it did not describe.
"While he may have been fearful of Ms. Finch, he may also have been angry or amused by her threat," the judge wrote.
The evidence against McCullar included his own taped confession to the killing recorded by his girlfriend. He said he was angered at Bedolla's spitting on him and using a racial slur during an argument over a cigarette. The judge's ruling said the motion for a new trial failed to overcome the confession.
The motion was something of a pre-appeal exercise, because McCullar's appellate counsel, Randy Richards, was asking West to overrule his own trial rulings.
But Richards was hopeful that what he is calling potential new evidence turns up, as it would impact the case. He informed the court that his investigator has located Donna Finch's car in Las Vegas, and it has blood inside.
Prosecutors have asked West to set an evidentiary hearing on the question of the car. Richards has asked West to approve fees to pay to have the car examined.
But West in Monday's ruling did not mention the fees and called a hearing "premature. If (Richards) can bring evidence that the car with bloodstains actually exists, and that it is somehow linked to the murder of Mr. Bedolla, the court will conduct a hearing at that time to determine whether the evidence warrants a new trial."
The prosecution has said Finch was the first suspect in the murder, but was cleared during the investigation.