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Sacramento murder suspect says he found body and fled

Published: Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 - 8:05 am

If it turns out jurors don't believe Juan Carlos Orozco's story, there's a good chance it will come back to what he said he did when he found Galen May's tortured body in the victim's Antelope apartment.

Two plastic bags had been wrapped around May's head. A belt had been cinched around the slain man's neck. Electrical cords had been wrapped around his ankles and wrists. Somebody had used a flat-head screwdriver to inflict 22 puncture wounds around May's face, neck and chest.

But Orozco, 23, admittedly did not call police about his 1 a.m., Aug. 26, 2010, discovery in the North Country Vista Apartments on Watt Avenue.

Instead, he drove off in the dead man's car.

Even more unconventional, Deputy District Attorney Hilary Bagley Franzoia suggested in her cross-examination of Orozco, was what the defendant failed to do when he discovered the killing that had taken place just one floor above where his own children slept, in an unlocked apartment.

If the killer who slaughtered Galen May still was on the loose, why didn't Orozco at least go back and lock the door to his kids' apartment? With a horrific killer in their midst, why did he leave them alone?

"I did not think about that," Orozco testified. "I did not think about that."

Orozco's testimony concluded the presentation of the evidence in his Sacramento Superior Court murder trial in front of Judge Greta Curtis Fall. Bagley and Assistant Public Defender John Perkins are scheduled to deliver their closing arguments to the jury on Monday.

May, 69, had worked for 31 years as an assistant thoroughbred trainer at the most prominent racetracks in California and across the country. An employee and confidant of Jerry Hollendorfer, the region's leading trainer, May helped prepare three horses during his career for the Kentucky Derby.

A Sacramento resident for nearly 10 years, May also saddled Blind Luck in her 2010 victory in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, one of the biggest races in the country for fillies and mares. It was one of 10 stakes and handicap victories for the Hollendorfer filly with career earnings of nearly $3.3 million.

"He definitely was a fixture in the racing community," his son, Barry May, 37, said in an interview outside the courtroom Thursday. "Golden Gate, Bay Meadows (when it was still running), Santa Anita, all the Southern California tracks. And he came out here to Sacramento a couple weeks every year when he was working."

Besides the horses, May loved to play golf, as well as cards and dominoes.

The night he was killed, he had just taken a woman friend home after playing some cards with her in his apartment, when he stopped into a nearby Circle K at 12:40 a.m. to buy a can of Arizona watermelon juice, a pack of cigarettes and some lottery tickets.

May didn't know it when he got home, but domestic trouble was brewing in the apartment beneath him.

Orozco had been living there for a few months with a girlfriend who was giving him a chance to get his life on track with her and their two children.

The day before the killing, she testified earlier in the trial, she gave Orozco her car keys to pick up the kids after school. When he failed to accomplish the task, she said she confronted him and wound up kicking Orozco out of her apartment about 1 o'clock in the morning.

Investigators believe Orozco then saw May come home from the Circle K. They suspect Orozco followed May up to his apartment, forced his way inside and bound him up. They theorize that Orozco poked May with the screwdriver to try to get him to reveal the PIN number to his ATM card. A special-circumstance torture allegation has been added to Orozco's murder charge.

Orozco was arrested a week later at an aunt's house in Delano. May's 1999 Toyota Solara turned up two days after that on the streets of Orozco's hometown of Salinas, its rims and stereo missing. Detectives said May's ATM card had been used to buy items in a supermarket in Oakland and in a drugstore in Salinas and gasoline at a station in Hayward.

In his testimony Thursday, Orozo said he was standing outside his apartment smoking a cigarette after his girlfriend kicked him out. He said he looked on the ground and happened to see some car keys, that he picked them up and they set off the lights to a car in the parking lot he knew belonged to May. He said he walked the keys up to May's apartment when he saw the door was open, poked his head in and saw the body.

On the witness stand, Orozco admitted the car theft, the purchases, and selling the rims and stereo for $100.

He said he found the ATM card in the car. But he denied killing May, saying that when he leaned over the man and saw he was dead, "I got freaked out," and drove off into the night.

In the days after he left May for dead, Orozco, in Spanish, texted his girlfriend who had kicked him out of her apartment. "I did things wrong," it said.

The prosecutor wondered what Orozco was talking about – his domestic situation, or maybe something a little more serious.

"I can't remember," Orozco testified.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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