Judge Frank Ochoa on Tuesday upheld three charges levied against Jack Mills, accused of shooting a Gillespe Street resident in the head in 2010. Mills’s defense attorney Michael Carty had filed a motion with the court to drop the attempted murder and attempted robbery charges, arguing there wasn’t enough evidence to try his 53-year-old client for the alleged crimes.
Ochoa’s decision means Mills will still face those two charges, as well as a third of assault with a deadly weapon. His wife, Rebecca, faces the same counts. Her attorney did not file an official motion for dismissal. The Lompoc couple was arrested in Pahrump, Nevada, approximately two weeks after the shooting. They were staying with relatives.
As he argued on behalf of Jack Mills, Carty walked the court through the day’s events in attempt to show his client wasn’t as culpable as the prosecution suggests. On March 1, 2010, Jack Mills knocked on the door of the Aguilar residence on Gillespie Street, and Maria Aguilar answered. In her statement to the police, Aguilar said that after Mills reached for a gun underneath his shirt, he grabbed her, pointed the gun to her temple, and pushed her to the ground.
Hearing the commotion from a back bedroom, shooting victim Juan Aguilar-Ortiz, 31 – nephew of Maria Aguilar – came to the front door. Aguilar stated that the two men began to struggle directly above her. Manuel Aguilar – son of Maria Aguilar – witnessed the action, and at one point pushed Mills back. According to police reports, Manuel never saw a “gun in [Mills’s] hands” but he suddenly heard three shots.
“Now the important thing is the timing of the shot,” said Carty during Tuesday’s hearing. “The shot was fired in the midst of commotion. Therefore, it cannot be attempted murder. Evidence is totally lacking in proving attempted murder. There is no evidence of any sort suggesting that [Aguilar-Ortiz] was meant to be shot and killed.”
Continued Carty, “Just because Mills brought a gun doesn’t mean he intended to use it against [Aguilar-Ortiz] who, at the time Mills knocked on the door, was in the bedroom.”
According to Carty, Mills had no way of knowing that Aguilar-Ortiz was even in the house at the time. Carty further clarified why he thought the charge of attempted robbery should be denied as well as the attempted murder charge. “Jack doesn’t make any attempt to rob Maria Aguilar,” he said. Aguilar-Ortiz had said to the police at the time, “I believe it was a robbery attempt,” which Carty claimed is “pure speculation.”
“Assault with a deadly weapon should be the charge [against Mills], but no robbery charge since Mills never demanded anything,” he went on.
Prosecutor Ben Ladinig then took over and immediately stated, “We can prove that his attempt was based on previous actions.” According to police statements, the two had come by the house twice before the day of the shooting. Both were in direct contact with Maria Aguilar who therefore recognized the couple.
Ladinig also pointed out that Aguilar-Ortiz, “was not shot to the foot or leg, but to the temple, which is a vital place and that is no accident.”
As for the attempted robbery charge, Ladinig said, “There’s plenty to prove that Mills plus [his wife, Rebecca, and at least one black male] were attempting a robbery. It’s key to understand that [Mills] intended to use the gun. The victims didn’t do anything for him to pull out the gun. He did that all on his own.” Police reported shortly after the shooting that Jack and Rebecca Mills may have been accompanied by two black men, who have yet to be identified.
Jack Mills had arrived in a black Volvo. During the commotion and the shooting, Rebecca was waiting in the car. The fact that Jack had a car waiting for him proves that the act was intentional, said Ladinig.
Throughout the hearing, Jack Mills silently jotted down notes. Both he and Rebecca were brought to the courtroom minutes before the hearing was meant to begin, although it was delayed by almost half an hour during which time Jack and Rebecca whispered and laughed together.
There is a pending defense motion to separate the trials. After the hearing, Ladinig declined to comment on a possible sentence nor did he want to share what he thought the the sentence should be. The Millses will be back in court next Wednesday, August 31.