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Monday, August 27, 2012

CA - HEMET: Three on trial in biker club killing

Jurors will soon begin deliberating in the trial of two Hemet men charged with murder and a third charged as an accessory in the killing of a former member of a rival motorcycle club.

Todd Brown, 44, of Hemet, described by prosecutors as a past member of the Vagos motorcycle gxxg, was found dead in his bullet-riddled pickup in Valle Vista on Aug. 29, 2010. Prosecutors say he had been on his way to get pizza with his adult son, Tyler, and his son’s two friends, Greg Pearse and Karl Rogers, when he was killed.

Cody Robert Young, 28, and Jason Michael Schlig, 33, have pleaded not guilty to murder, two counts of attempted murder and other charges.

Shaun Daniel Spicher, 28, who was a Marine stationed at Twentynine Palms at the time of his arrest, has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact. Initially, he too had been charged with murder, but a judge dismissed that count earlier this year.

All three defendants are members of the Brotherhood Motorcycle Club, according to prosecutors.

Young and Spicher, testifying on their own behalf earlier in the trial, said Todd Brown and his group were the aggressors that night.

Jury selection in the trial began in late June and emotions have run high among friends and family attending the court proceedings.

Members of the audience gasped and rushed out of the courtroom Monday, Aug. 27, as prosecutor Jess Walsh showed a photo of Brown's lifeless body slumped in the driver's seat of his pickup, a bullet wound to the back of his shaved head.

Walsh told jurors during his closing argument at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley that the case was about “anger, revenge and pride.”

Walsh said witnesses testified that Schlig said he wanted to kill Todd Brown the day of the shooting and that he and Young had armed themselves before going out in search of him.

Prosecutors said Brown had not been an active member of the Vagos Motorcycle Club for years before his death. But a few months before the shooting, Brown’s son, Tyler Brown, and Pearse had gotten into a confrontation with Spicher at the San Jacinto bar Tap Daddy's. Tyler Brown called his father for help and the two got in a fight outside the bar with Spicher, who was working as a security guard at the bar.

The day of the shooting, Schlig, angry over the Tap Daddy's incident, exchanged words with the Browns, Walsh said.

“Tap Daddy's was the match that lit the fire,” Walsh said of the now-closed bar.

Brown's son and his friends told investigators that they encountered Schlig and Spicher, wearing Brotherhood patches, on motorcycles at the intersection of Lincoln and Palm avenues, court records say. Todd Brown, Tyler Brown and Karl Rogers ended up out of the pickup fighting with Spicher. As they fought, a blue SUV pulled up behind the pickup and a car stopped in front. Seconds later, gunfire erupted, Walsh said.

Tyler Brown and Pearse ran. Pearse said he could hear bullets whizzing by him and he saw them hit a mailbox and a house, court records say.

Todd Brown climbed back into his pickup and was trying to drive away when he received the fatal wound fro Schlig's gun, Walsh. The pickup crashed into a fence and trees.

Deputies arrived to find Spicher and two other people pushing a motorcycle into a nearby mobile home park, court records say. Spicher was wearing a bullet-resistant vest and a T-shirt identifying him as a member of the Brotherhood.

Deputies later found Schlig’s blue SUV with articles of Brotherhood clothing and two Kevlar vests inside, court records say.

Defense attorneys have argued that Todd Brown hated the Brotherhood and took advantage of an opportunity to assault its members, court records say.

In his closing argument Monday, Spicher's attorney, Robert Gazley, said Tyler Brown and his friend lied to protect themselves and Todd Brown's legacy.

He portrayed Spicher as a “peacemaker” and father of three young children with an admirable military career.

Schlig did not testify but he previously told investigators that Todd Brown confronted him at the intersection and he thought Brown reached for a weapon.

Shortly after the shootings, Spicher denied he was involved, court records say. He told investigators that he wore a bullet-resistant vest because he lived in a bad neighborhood, court records say.

He said he had been riding his motorcycle alone when he was cut off by another vehicle and assaulted by a group of people. According to court records, he told investigators that he had returned to retrieve his motorcycle.

Closing arguments are expected to continue Tuesday.