An ex-convict accused of robbing and killing three people in Hawthorne and a Los Angeles woman in 2010 was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury, speeding up the court process.
John Wesley Ewell, 55, of Los Angeles faces four counts of murder and four counts of residential robbery, along with the special circumstance allegations of murder during the course of a robbery and multiple murders, which could lead to the death penalty.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek capital punishment or a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Ewell is charged with killing 80-year-old Hanna Morcos, who suffered a heart attack while he was tied up during a home invasion robbery at his house in the 4100 block of West 137th Street on Sept. 24, 2010; Denice Roberts, who was discovered dead in her house in the 12600 block of Hoover Street in South Los Angeles on Oct. 13, 2010; and 69-year-old Leamon Turnage and his wife, Robyn, 57, who were found Oct. 22, 2010, bound and strangled in a house they owned in the 4100 block of West 142nd Street in Hawthorne.
Morcos left behind his then 83-year-old wife, who was asleep in the bedroom during the crime. Roberts' husband found her bound and dead in their ransacked home. Ewell pawned one of Roberts' rings, tying him to the crime, police said.
The Turnages, who lived in Central California, were on their way home from a trip to Florida to see a new grandchild. They used the Hawthorne
Ewell has a more than 20-year history of arrests and convictions for crimes including grand theft, robbery and burglary. He was arrested in 2010 in Huntington Park and pleaded no contest to a second-degree commercial burglary charge. He was scheduled for sentencing when Hawthorne police arrested him for shoplifting. He was released on $20,000 bail.
Although in jail since 2010, Ewell's preliminary hearing at the Airport Courthouse was repeatedly postponed. The grand jury indictment means there is no need for the proceeding and the case can head straight to trial. Ewell has pleaded not guilty.
Follow Larry Altman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larryaltman