Moran: Magana to stand trial for two murders, special circumstances

February 12, 2016
Santa Paula News

After an all day hearing that featured allegations of murder against a witness and sobs from family members of a slain Santa Paula woman, a Superior Court Judge ordered a 20-year-old gang member to stand trial for the 2014 death of his pregnant girlfriend.

Ashley Moran was 21 when she was found battered to death with stab wounds to the neck when she was discovered in Obergon Park on March 15, 2014. Moran, the youngest child of a large family, was seven to eight weeks pregnant at the time her death.

Antonio Magana, also known as Anthony, of Santa Paula, is accused of two counts of murder and two special circumstances of multiple murders and lying in wait. He also is accused of weapons allegations for each count. 

A bailiff removed the handcuffs from Magana, sporting a ponytail, neck tattoo and small beard, but left him in shackles. One side of the courtroom held his family, friends and girlfriend where separated by the aisle sat the family and friends of Moran. 

Former Santa Paula Police Officer David Keathley was among the witnesses that spoke of the crime following the discovery of Moran’s body in bushes in the park, located in the 300 block of San Clemente Street. 

Prosecutors allege Magana took Moran to the park with the intention of killing her because he wanted her to have an abortion but she refused. 

According to testimony Magana told a friend his other girlfriend had a baby and if Moran went through with her pregnancy he would have to get a job to support the children. 

After an evening of driving around, while a friend sat in Moran’s car Magana allegedly killed her using an aluminum baseball bat to strike her in the back of the head and stabbing her in the neck with a knife. 

Found in the abandoned car after the slaying was Moran’s driver license and an ultrasound of the baby taken just days before the murders.

Senior Deputy District Attorney John Barrick displayed photographs showing Moran’s fatal injuries bringing gasps and sobs from family members; there were more sobs when photos from her autopsy and the examination of the fetus were displayed. 

Once granted immunity Alexander Torres testified that he and his friend Magana spent much of March 14, 2014 together and Magana told him Moran was expecting but would not abort the child. 

Magana, said Torres, put a serrated kitchen knife in a rag and put it in his pocket and carried an aluminum baseball bat, which due to his knowledge of Magana’s gang ties he said he did not find unusual.

Moran picked them up that evening and after the men pooled their money she purchased beer — Moran did not drink any — and they drove around making several stops. During a stop at Briggs School Torres was asked to leave the couple for a few minutes and he observed a tense conversation inside the vehicle.

Torres said Magana was calm all evening and did not seem angry even when leaving Briggs Moran addressed her pregnancy; they both discussed how they “would deal with it” including telling their families. 

Magana, noted Torres, became quiet as they drove to Obergon Park where they sat in the car, drank and talked. 

Finally, Magana asked Moran to get out of the vehicle; she asked “why” and the second time he asked Torres said she got out and the two disappeared into the park. 

The next thing Torres said he heard was a loud “Ting!” and from the noise he believed Moran had been hit. 

“It didn’t make a sound like it would if it hit concrete,” said Torres.

Magana rushed back to the car, said he had hit Moran and the two took off on foot with Torres saying Magana disposed of the bat, knife, Moran’s cell phone and other items along the way.

Torres said he did not ask Magana about the crime because he feared for his own safety. 

The two walked to Moran’s home where Magana told Moran’s brother she was supposed to have picked the two up earlier in the evening but never arrived.

On cross examination Torres readily admitted to being a past gang associate and of lying to the police but denied that he in fact had murdered Moran as accused by Magana’s attorney Bill Haney. 

Haney said an impression of a Converse shoe was found in the grass where police found blood evidence — it is believed Moran was dragged to the spot where she was found — and said Torres wears the brand.

Haney also accused Torres of being rehearsed in his testimony, lying about the events of the evening and being a paid witness due to his status of relocation and support financed by the state. He asked that the charges be dismissed against Magana.

Ultimately, Superior Court Judge Barry Taylor decided there was enough evidence to proceed to trial and noted it will not be a death penalty case.

Magana could still be sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

Magana remains in jail without bail and is due back in court February 25 when a new trial date will be determined.

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