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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Two Santa Monica Murders to Get New Trial


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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.

Edric Dashelll GrossEdric Daniel Gross (Courtesy Santa Monica Police Department)

Gross was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jacqueline Ovsak Langford, 41, in 2001 and Dana Caper, 42, in 2002 with the special circumstance of multiple murders.

The conviction came after the first trial in 2015 ended in a mistrial when the jury, which was leaning in favor of acquittal, was unable to reach a verdict.

During the second trial, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano allowed some circumstantial evidence that Caper's former boyfriend might be the culprit, according to the California News Wire Services.

However, the judge excluded a witness's testimony that the former boyfriend asked him to provide an alibi for the time of the murder.

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.

Her body was found in what appeared to be an encampment near the intersection of Montana Avenue after a visitor to the park looked over the railing, police said.

Police found shoes, toiletries and miscellaneous clothing at the site ("Body Found in Bluff Encampment," October 30, 2002).

Both cases were turned over to the Santa Monica Police Department’s cold case unit, which found new leads using DNA processing, prosecutors said.

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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