Crime - Sacto 911

August trial date set in teen’s 2012 slaying

Ryan Douglas Roberts is arraigned at the Sacramento County jail, Friday, August 9, 2013, arrested in connection with the death of 13-year-old Jessica Funk-Haslam in March 2012.
Ryan Douglas Roberts is arraigned at the Sacramento County jail, Friday, August 9, 2013, arrested in connection with the death of 13-year-old Jessica Funk-Haslam in March 2012. lsterling@sacbee.com

The attorney for the man held in the 2012 killing of a 13-year-old girl in Rosemont Community Park won more time to prepare her client’s defense, pushing the start of Ryan Douglas Roberts’ murder trial to August.

The crime shocked and frightened the Rosemont community, shook investigators working the case and garnered national attention. The body of Jessica Funk-Haslam, an eighth-grader at Albert Einstein Middle School, was found on March 6, 2012, in the dugout of a baseball diamond at the park by a woman walking her dog. The girl had been beaten, stabbed, then asphyxiated, investigators said.

Hundreds of tips, a months-long manhunt by local and federal authorities, then DNA evidence, ultimately led to the August 2013 arrest of Roberts, then 23, on suspicion of killing the girl. Investigators said Roberts, a Rosemont resident, frequented the park. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

At a Sacramento Superior Court hearing Monday, with Jessica’s mother in the gallery, defense attorney Jennifer Mouzis, granted two previous delays in the case, pleaded for a third before Judge Gerrit Wood.

Mouzis said the hours of law enforcement interviews with as many as 100 people and the amount of DNA and other evidence accumulated in the long murder investigation has overwhelmed her and her sole investigator.

“The prosecution has had three years and thousands of law enforcement to prepare. I am one attorney with one investigator. My client is facing life in prison. It’s my duty to effectively represent him,” Mouzis told Wood, saying that she continues to receive new information, including DNA samples.

“It isn’t as though the case has remained static,” Mouzis said. “It’s more important to swallow my pride and say I’m not ready. This is a massive case – the amount of evidence, DNA evidence. This is not a frivolous claim.”

Judge and attorneys alike called the case complicated because of its many components – witness statements, multiple agencies’ involvement and scientific evidence.

“This is a case with some complexity and moving parts,” Wood said, adding that the case was assigned to his court “so we could get some control over this.”

Still, Wood was eager for the trial to proceed. He granted the delay, ordering the trial to begin Aug. 3 in Sacramento Superior Court, but said Monday’s continuance would be the last.

“If this court is going to hear this trial, there’s nothing more important than being ready to go,” Wood said.

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