VALLEJO — A jury began hearing the prosecution case against a Vallejo woman who faces a pair of murder charges for the 2007 methamphetamine-fueled fatal shootings of two random women – one in Cordelia and one in Dixon.
Opening statements Monday in the trial – expected to take about a month – laid out the details of what the accused, Paige Linville, and her boyfriend did before and after the Nov. 16, 2007, killings of Amber L. Chappell, 34, a transient, and Christina Baxley, 41, of Dixon.
Linville’s defense attorney, Amy Morton, and prosecutor Krishna Abrams agreed on most of the details of events with one major exception: Morton told jurors that Linville’s boyfriend Mario Moreno was the triggerman in both killings, while Abrams told jurors Moreno killed Chappell and Linville took her turn by shooting Baxley.
Linville and Moreno were in Moreno’s car, an Infiniti SUV her parents got for her, in the parking lot of a supermarket in Vallejo after midnight when they were approached by Chappell, who they had never met.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” Abrams told jurors of the decision the pair, high on methamphetamine, made to kill Chappell. “They picked her out because she was an easy target.”
“They had been up for days on a methamphetamine binge,” Morton told jurors.
Chappell, a regular methamphetamine user who had been looking for a ride after walking from her sister’s home, got in the back seat of the Infiniti and joined the couple for a drive to Cordelia. The drive ended alongside Interstate 680 at the dead end of Ramsey Road, a remote frontage road with the freeway on one side and marshland on the other.
Chappell’s sister later described her sibling as developmentally disabled and very trusting of others.
Linville got Chappell out of the car and a short time later Moreno started shooting. It was around 4 a.m. and Chappell was shot seven times in the head and neck area. Chappell, her body lying face down in the middle of the road, was discovered by a sheriff’s deputy shortly before 5 a.m. Seven shell casings were scattered on the cold, cracked asphalt and a trail of blood flowed from Chappell’s wounds into the nearby mud.
As investigators scrutinized the death scene, Linville and Moreno drove to a Walmart in Fairfield, bought cleaning supplies and went to a car wash where they tried to scrub all evidence of Chappell from the Infiniti. Then they returned to Vallejo.
Morton told jurors that Linville was in “a disassociated stated” during the killings. Linville, wearing a black sweater wrap and glasses, with her long hair pinned up in a tight bun, cried as pictures of the shooting scene were the shown to jurors.
Abrams told jurors that Linville insisted on getting her turn at killing.
“They went on a mission to kill people to see what it would feel like,” she said.
Morton said Linville is the victim of Moreno’s lies and was especially passive because she was the victim of childhood rape.
Linville and Moreno set out a few hours later on a trip that led them to Dixon. They stopped along the way and bought ammo and paper targets before going to Moreno’s relative’s home on Batavia Road, where they could do some target practice. With them, they had a wig for a disguise and tape to cover up the Infiniti’s license plates.
The pair later drove around Dixon, where they used more methamphetamine and spotted a potential target, an unidentified woman waiting at a bus stop. They parked, did some more methamphetamine and then moved in for the kill – only to find their prey was gone, according to Abrams.
A short time later they spotted Baxley, a single mother of two, walking her dog in front of her Valley Glen Drive apartment during a lunch break from her job at the Dixon Tribune newspaper. They drove past her three times, smoked some more methamphetamine and then one of them ran up to Baxley and shot her several times before they drove off.
Later that afternoon, Linville was back at her job at her dad’s veterinary shop in Vallejo.
It would be nearly a month before sheriff’s deputies got a key break in the case.
Moreno’s “other girlfriend” confronted him about the night he spent with Linville. Moreno explained that he was not being unfaithful, he was just committing murders. The other girlfriend then told her mother, who called in a telephone tip to authorities. Moreno and Linville were arrested.
Abrams is set to continue her case Tuesday against Linville when the trial resumes in the courtroom of Judge Allan P. Carter.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.