John Wesley Ewell

Over the last dec­ade, John Wes­ley Ewell ad­voc­ated for re­form of Cali­for­nia’s tough three-strikes law. Now he sits in a Los Angeles County jail charged with mur­der­ing four people in a string of home in­va­sion rob­ber­ies com­mit­ted in the fall of 2010. Court re­cords show that pro­sec­utors had the chance to seek lengthy pris­on sen­tences for Ewell be­fore his ar­rest on sus­pi­on of murder.

Un­der the state’s three-strikes law, Ewell, who had two rob­bery con­vic­tions dat­ing to the 1980s, was eli­gible for a 25-years-to-life pris­on sen­tence if he was con­victed of an­oth­er felony, no mat­ter how minor. But the Los Angeles County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice de­cided on four oc­ca­sions against seek­ing the max­im­um sen­tence when Ewell was charged with new crimes.

In ad­di­tion, Ewell was al­lowed to re­main out on bail while charged with three sep­ar­ate theft cases in 2010. Pro­sec­utors note that Ewell was charged with re­l­at­ively minor prop­erty crimes and that there was no way to pre­dict he would turn to vi­ol­ence. Ewell has pleaded not guilty in the murder case.

To see a map of Ewell’s al­leged vic­tims, vis­it The Times’ Hom­icide Re­port.

— Jack Le­onard and Richard Win­ton

Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
John Wes­ley Ewell was con­victed of two rob­ber­ies in the 1980s, mak­ing him eli­gible later for a 25-years-to-life pris­on sen­tence un­der the state’s 1994 three-strikes law. His first rob­bery con­vic­tion oc­curred in 1985. Ewell and an­oth­er man were ac­cused of rob­bing a fe­male jog­ger who had been check­ing her bank bal­ance at an ATM. Ewell pleaded guilty to rob­bery and was sen­tenced to 270 days in jail.
Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
John Wes­ley Ewell’s second strike con­vic­tion oc­curred in 1989, when a jury found him guilty of rob­bery. He and two oth­ers were charged with rob­bing a mo­tor­ist in an al­ley. Ewell al­legedly told the vic­tim: “Don’t move if you don’t want to be hurt,” be­fore bind­ing the man’s hands and tak­ing his wal­let, watch and truck. He was sen­tenced to eight years in pris­on.
Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
The 1988 rob­bery vic­tim test­i­fied at a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing that he was robbed by sev­er­al people while parked in his truck in an al­ley, and iden­ti­fied John Wes­ley Ewell as one of the rob­bers. He said Ewell told him not to move if he didn’t want to get hurt and took his wal­let, watch and his keys be­fore driv­ing off in his truck.
Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
In Janu­ary 1995, John Wes­ley Ewell was charged with check for­gery . Un­der the 1994 three-strikes law, Ewell was eli­gible for a 25-years-to-life pris­on sen­tence if he was con­victed. But the Los Angeles County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice agreed to a plea deal in which Ewell was sen­tenced to sev­en years in pris­on.
Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
In Feb­ru­ary 2010, John Wes­ley Ewell was ar­res­ted on sus­pi­cion of steal­ing from a Home De­pot store. He was charged with second-de­gree com­mer­cial burg­lary and petty theft with a pri­or, felon­ies that made him eli­gible for a 25-years-to-life pris­on sen­tence un­der the three-strikes law. The Los Angeles County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice did not seek the max­im­um sen­tence, the second time that the of­fice had used its dis­cre­tion not to seek ...
Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
In Ju­ly 2010, John Wes­ley Ewell was ar­res­ted for the second time that year for al­legedly steal­ing from a Home De­pot store. He was charged with grand theft of per­son­al prop­erty, a felony that made him eli­gible for a 25-years-to-life pris­on sen­tence un­der the three-strikes law. The Los Angeles County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice did not seek the max­im­um sen­tence, the third time that the of­fice had used its dis­cre­tion not ...
Dec. 20, 2010  By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
In Au­gust 2010, John Wes­ley Ewell was ar­res­ted on sus­pi­cion of steal­ing from a Home De­pot store, the third time he had been ac­cused of theft that year. The fol­low­ing month, pro­sec­utors charged him with grand theft of per­son­al prop­erty and second-de­gree com­mer­cial burg­lary, felon­ies that made him eli­gible for a 25-years-to-life pris­on sen­tence un­der the three-strikes law. The Los Angeles County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice did not seek the max­im­um ...
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