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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Two Santa Monica Murders to Get New Trial
By Jorge Casuso
June 20, 2018 -- A homeless man sentenced to life in prison for strangling two homeless women in Santa Monica more than 15 years ago will get another trial after a state appeals court panel reversed his conviction Monday.
The three-justice panel ruled that the lower court excluded evidence pointing to a former boyfriend of one victim when it convicted Edric Daniel Gross, now 52, of first-degree murder in June 2016.
The panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal found the witness' testimony may have helped Gross' defense in the second trial, according to the wire service report.
"There exists a reasonable probability Gross would have obtained a more favorable outcome at the second trial were it not for that error," Justice Dennis M. Perluss wrote in the panel's ruling.
Langford was found strangled to death in an abandoned home in Downtown Santa Monica on April 5, 2001 ("April Death was a Homicide," July 6, 2001).
A construction worker found the victim's body naked from the waist down inside a decrepit house at 1537 7th Street that was slated for demolition, police said. She had allegedly squatted there for several months.
A thick brown cord was wound tightly around her neck and tied to the clothes bar in the closet above her, police said. An autopsy found Ovask died of asphyxia.
On October 29, 2002, Caper was found strangled to death below the bluffs in Palisades Park.
Police found shoes, toiletries and miscellaneous clothing at the site ("Body Found in Bluff Encampment," October 30, 2002).
Police identified Gross in September 2007 as the suspect in both slayings. He was arrested in August 2012.
In the trial, a defense witness testified that Caper had threatened to report her former boyfriend, who did not testify at trial, for inducing her to take drugs and have sex, according to City News Service.
Prosecutors argued that there were numerous similarities between the killings of the two homeless women.
"This was a signature crime," Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder argued at trial. "This was a person who killed in the same way, the same type of women."
In its decision Monday, the panel overturned both convictions, the wire service reported.
"If it is reasonably probable at least one juror would have questioned whether Gross killed Caper, it is also reasonably probable the same juror would have had a reasonable doubt whether Gross murdered Ovsak," the opinion said.
The case was remanded to the lower court for a new trial.
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