Confessed killer takes stand in ‘thrill-kill’ case

By From page A3 | January 30, 2013

VALLEJO — A confessed killer of two woman who made a plea deal with prosecutors took the witness stand Tuesday, pinning blame on an accomplice for the 2007 random methamphetamine-fueled murders.

“She was attracted to bad boys. I was attracted to bad girls. She was a bad a–,” Mario Moreno, 32, said of Paige Linville, 29, his methamphetamine dealer turned partner in crime.

Linville is accused of joining Moreno on the night of Nov. 16, 2007, in a pair of murders of two innocent women separated by 30 miles and several hours.

“I was ready to get crazy,” Moreno said of the night that began with him taking several tabs of Ecstasy, smoking some methamphetamine and then having a friend stick a needle in his arm and pump a syringe filled with more methamphetamine directly into his bloodstream.

Moreno said the powerful, potent mix made him aggressive, angry and “ready to go, go, go, go.”

Moreno testified that he drove Linville in her car, his gun tucked under his leg, from his Vallejo home to a Laundromat in a shopping center where they lured Amber Chappell, 34, into the car with talk of methamphetamine and partying that night at Lake Berryessa.

“She seemed like an easy target,” Moreno said of Chappell, who he described as having “that tweaker look in her eyes.” The perspective came after Moreno detailed a quick conversation he and Moreno had after seeing Chappell. He asked her if she ever thought about killing anybody and they agreed to kill her.

They drove around for an hour, maybe two, making small talk until they got to the end of Ramsey Road, alongside Interstate 680 in Cordelia, in the middle of the night.

“It was dark and secluded and she was getting on my nerves,” Moreno said.

Linville got Chappell out of the car and he shot her in the head, Moreno said. He kept shooting into her until he’d emptied his gun, Moreno testified.

Linville’s attorney, Amy Morton, said it was the flash of the first shot that triggered post traumatic stress disorder in Linville that was so severe it left her with an inability to mentally form the intent to aid or abet in either of the murders.

Morton has repeatedly tried to demonize Moreno, portraying him as being so violent that he twisted Linville to his whims. But after several hours on the witness stand, Moreno came off as cold with no remorse. Any anger or rage Morton hoped to elicit was limited to a few terse words.

Moreno, who has a tattoo on a shoulder that he said reflects “a frozen heart will never break,” openly detailed his plea deal that will land him a maximum 32-year prison stint in exchange for his testifying against Linville.

Morton has told jurors that Moreno shot and killed Chappell and the second victim, Christina Baxler, a single mother of two, who was shot multiple times while walking her dog Snowy in front of her Dixon apartment.

Moreno testified that Linville shot Baxley after asking him if he was worried she would tell on him, suggesting that “she had better shoot somebody, too.”

For prosecutor Krishna Abrams, the question of whether Linville pulled the trigger in one of the killings may not be critical. Aiding or abetting in a murder can add up to being guilty of murder.

Late in the afternoon, Abrams spent 30 minutes grilling Moreno on Linville’s response to the murders.

Moreno said Linville joined him in buying cleaning supplies for the car and ammunition for target practice after Chappell’s murder. He recalled being at a Vallejo car wash with Linville, where several Vallejo cops were cleaning their patrol cars, and Linville just helping him clean. Moreno said he and Linville got drinks and snacks after killing Baxley, and dropping off Linville at her job in Vallejo before picking her up a while later, where he and his other girlfriend spent several hours together.

Moreno and Linville were arrested a month after the murders after the other girlfriend told family members about the murders and they contacted authorities.

Abrams is expected to wrap up her case against Linville on Wednesday.

Morton announced that she plans to have Linville take the witness stand during the defense portion of the trial, which will be presented next week.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

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