Man found guilty of murdering Kerman couple during botched robbery in 2009

Crime

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – A Fresno County jury found 54-year-old Leroy Johnson guilty of murder Tuesday. He is facing the death penalty for the 2009 double homicide of Gary and Sandra De Bartolo.

The penalty phase is scheduled to start next week. Johnson’s defense attorney David Mugridge has poured years into the case.

“He was affected by the verdict. I sat there and I talked with him and tried to comfort him as best I could under the circumstances,” Mugridge said.

Investigators said Johnson and five others targeted the De Bartolo’s house to steal money and marijuana. Johnson and another man, Jose Reyes, entered the home but were startled the couple was there, and in the aftermath, the group singled out Johnson as their killer.

Mugridge said with the verdict handed down he’ll be talking to the District Attorney, and they may reach an agreement without entering a penalty phase. If not, he expects their presentation to take about three weeks.

“The defense has a significant number of expert witnesses and some civilian as well. I think we actually have more experts than civilians coming in,” Mugridge said.

Mugridge could not go into detail about what to expect moving forward but said it will be significant.

“If we get to a penalty phase it’s going to be one of the larger, no I would say it’s going to be the largest defense penalty phases in a capital case in Fresno County in my memory,” he said.

If the trial moves forward the penalty phase will begin September 8th.

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