|AIG/Matrix Embezzlers' Case Continued, Catherine Tameny Murderer Sentenced|
By Lonce LaMon - March 24, 2010
It was an incredibly intense day in the Orange County criminal court system both inside and outside Superior Court Room C-35, the court of Judge Frank Fasel, on Friday, March 19th, in Santa Ana, California, on Civic Center Drive.
I was there that morning to report on the happenings of the case of the People vs. Hector Porrata, Rene Montes, George Martinez, and Cara Cruz-Thompson. At the arraignment of March 1st, no one of the defendants had changed pleas. All four are still pleading Not Guilty, after a long incriminating Preliminary Hearing which ran from late December of 2009 through early February of 2010.
Porrata, Montes, Martinez and Cruz-Thompson are collectively accused of embezzling nearly 1.5 million dollars out of Matrix Absence Management in Ontario, California, and AIG in Santa Ana, California while working as Workers’ Compensation claims adjusters during a span of time from roughly the years 2003 to 2006.
I arrived at exactly 8:30 am to the floor where this court room is situated, which is in the Tower Building of this Santa Ana Superior Court building complex. The elevator is very close to this particular court room, and as I stepped off the elevator and looked to the right, I noticed immediately that court room C-35 was still closed. No Deputy had come to open it yet.
I saw three people both sitting and standing along the bench installed into the wall. The first woman I noticed was extremely slim and young and appeared to me like she could have been one of Cara Cruz-Thompson’s daughters. She had two-toned long hair of ash blonde and dark brown that she teased on the top and secured in the back with bobby pins. She was a very attractive young woman and I loved the way she ratted her hair and used bobby pins the way we did in the 1960s. The contrast of her blonde and brown hair looked quite becoming.
I took a seat at the very far end of the bench and continued writing down my thoughts and ideas in my notebook. I noticed the slim young woman with the two colored hair also had pairs of cherries tattooed on the tops of her feet. She was wearing jeweled, backless sandals.
The elevator opened and a middle-aged man with dark hair stepped out wearing a black shirt with flecks of wheat distributed evenly throughout in a pattern. He embraced the young woman with the ash blonde and dark brown hair. He embraced another woman who was also there. Some other people came off the elevator with him. One was another very slim woman with very long brown hair. I was so wondering if these people were Cara Cruz-Thompson’s supporters, but I wasn’t sure. Since so many of them were so slim, it made me think of Cara, who is herself incredibly slim.
The man with the black shirt with the wheat flecks compared his tattoos on his arm with the young woman with the blonde-brown hair who not only had twin cherries tattooed on the tops of her feet, but had a long tattoo running down her left arm. She mentioned to the man that there is a clover in her tattoo.
Another man who had been there from the beginning, whom I saw right when I stepped off the elevator, who had a full-white beard and white hair, and was wearing jeans and a mustard colored shirt, said, “I don’t think everybody’s going to be happy with the outcome.”
What? Had Cara copped a long term plea deal? Is this why everybody wasn’t going to be happy? I was wondering but I wasn’t so sure. I did not want to impose myself and ask, because I could feel the overwhelmingly intense collective pain of this group. The intensity of what I was feeling from these people made me think that this issue these people were here about had to be something much more serious than embezzlement or grand theft. It had to be something like an accidental death or a murder because of the enormity of the unarticulated grief that I could feel oozing out of their souls.
Although these people gathered near me in front of the court room shared some laughs with one another, and smiled as they spoke, there was something powerfully tragic underneath their smiles and gestures of pleasure in seeing one another. More people came off the elevator. It was now past 9:00 am and the court room still had not been opened yet. Someone in the group passed out buttons with a likeness of a young woman on them. So, everyone clipped or pinned the buttons onto their bodices. The young woman on the button had shoulder length, light brown hair which was cut in a softly curled, layered look. She was attractive and looked perhaps between 18 and 22 years of age.
Then I saw Thomas Schultz, the DA for the Matrix/AIG embezzlement case, come out of the elevator. So, I knew I wasn’t in the wrong place. He is the prosecutor for the People vs. Hector Porrata, Rene Montes, George Martinez, and Cara Cruz-Thompson. He was carrying his expando file of documents under his arm, as he always does. Then two more very attractive women came off the elevator. They were both ash blondes. One was actually a more full-figured woman who was ash blonde with a light brown weave in her hair who merged in amongst all these very razer-thin people. She was most beautiful. She was wearing large round sun glasses of the type Jackie Kennedy Onassis used to wear. And she was wearing a well cut black suit. She took off her jacket and revealed some tattoos which looked like red tulips.
Finally, the court room was opened. And it was already after 9 am. I entered the court room and I sat up close—as close as I could. The first three rows were blocked off. All the people wearing the buttons filed in. Most of them filled the aisle row furthest from the door, but behind me I noticed a row of older women appearing to be in their 60s and 70s wearing the buttons.
Trying not to be too conspicuous, I turned around in order to observe all the spectators in the court room. In the far back along the wall, there was an entire row of Chinese people. In the row just behind me to my back right, there was an older middle aged Chinese couple, a man and a woman. To my left I saw the beautiful full-figured woman with the blonde weave hair with the Jackie Onassis sun-glasses dabbing her eyes. She had begun to cry.
Suddenly a woman approached me on my left. I sensed immediately that she was a kind woman who was well meaning. She told me the people wearing the buttons were upset with me because they felt I was writing down their personal conversations while sitting outside the court room on the bench. I did get slightly defensive, so I covered up my notebook as she peered over my shoulder. My gosh, I am a writer and I describe in my notes my environment wherever I go, from the wall paper to the floor tiling to the position of the elevator. I do not just write about people’s personal conversations if I am in a public place. I simply do what writers do. I describe everything going on. But, I make people uptight.
I explained to the woman that I did not know who these people were. I did not know the case they were attending to. What was going on? I told her that I did not know the case. She explained that it was a 25-year-old murder case. She further explained that sometimes these people are okay, sometimes they are fine, but then suddenly their tempers flare. Their anger erupts. I told the woman that I understood. I told her I was sorry, or something to that effect. But now I was curious. Now I wanted to know. What had happened? I was going to find out but I needed to watch my step. I didn’t want anybody confiscating my notebook. I had had my cell phone taken, and my digital audio recorder confiscated before.
Criminal courts are treacherous places to try to function as a reporter. Last December and then again this early January, I got nearly held in contempt of court first for using a cell phone camera and then an audio recording device in a court room. Then, I got corrected by a Bailiff for drinking a cup of coffee (with a lid on it) during a break in the court proceedings. I also got corrected again by the same Bailiff for listening to my voice mail messages on my Blackberry during a court break. Then, I was corralled in front of the Court Building by three Deputies for taking pictures with my Nikon D1X digital camera of the façade of the building while standing on the sidewalk. It was during this photography session that I took the signature picture I am using for this series. I had to fight for my rights to the picture with a high ranking Deputy inside the Court House. Holy Toledo. What an ordeal it is to report on a criminal case…
Now I get complained about and confronted for writing in a notebook just outside the door of a court room. Distilling it all down, one has to tread very lightly in a court room where criminal cases are being heard and tried. It’s not at all like taking a cell phone, a camera, and a notebook down to the beach. It is a world where heinous crimes have been committed, and people are on edge and very wary. It is not a lighthearted place. It is not Happy Hour at your local neighborhood restaurant. It is a place of high crime filled with devastated and grieving victims.
Soon, directly behind me, a man sat down. I soon discerned that he was a reporter. He was exchanging notes with a woman reporter who had just sat down a few seats down to my right. I listened to them both for a while, and then I made my play. I asked the reporter behind me what this 25-year-old murder case was about. He congenially filled me in as best he could during a break in the proceedings, and from what he told me I was able to further research the case later on the Internet.
In 1985, in the early morning of August 5th, a 20-year-old woman named Catherine Tameny was murdered in her Anaheim apartment. The defendant, Wendell Patrick Lemond, had gone free for 22 years. He had been a suspect back in 1985, but evidence at the time was not sufficient to charge him. He had worked with the victim at an Anaheim business called Archive.
Then in 2007, Wendell Patrick Lemond’s DNA was matched to the murder of Catherine Tameny using technology that did not exist in 1985. DNA evidence had been collected from the crime scene, which included a swab taken off the victim’s breast, but the case went unsolved and cold for 22 years. Then the defendant, who was living in Indiana in 2007, was extradited August 30, 2007 to face charges in Orange County.
Lemond sexually assaulted and raped Catherine Tameny, who was found later in the morning of August 5th 1985 by her mother and step-father. Catherine had been strangled by the cord of her alarm clock, and her two-year-old son, Nick, was found alive in the living room with his hands bound with electrical tape. Catherine’s shirt had been pulled up to her upper torso while she was naked from the waist down.
Now, here in Court Room C-35, on Friday, March 19th 2010, Wendell Patrick Lemond was about to be sentenced. He had been found guilty by a jury on July 21, 2009, of one felony count of first degree murder. Some individuals out of the group wearing the buttons were going to make Victim Impact Statements. I had heard an organizer outside the courtroom talking to the group telling them that anyone who wishes to can speak, and nobody has to go up to the podium alone.
By 10:30 am, the judge still had not appeared. But Thomas Schultz, the DA on the Matrix/AIG case, was sitting waiting in the Jury Box. Gil Carreon, Hector Porrata’s attorney, had arrived wearing a yellow tie with red balls on it. Mary Kreber, George Martinez’s attorney, walked in sporting her signature black patent leather pumps, clad in a tailored brown suit. She sat down next to Tom Schultz.
Finally the judge arrived and proceedings began. By 11 am, the court clerk was on the phone, and called out, “Carreon?” But by that time Gil Carreon had stepped out of the court room, so Mary spoke up and called out, “We’re here.” She then walked over to the clerk of the court and said, “We’re continuing.” So, that’s all that happened concerning Hector and Cara, George and Rene. The case is continued until this coming Friday, March 26th. Delay after delay. What’s the deal? Will anyone cop a plea? Who knows… Tom Schultz and Mary Kreber then left the court room. Gil Carreon had already left. Fred McBride never appeared. The beat goes on…
So, what now? It was over for the day with respect to the Matrix/AIG case, but I was now determined to stay and hear the Victim Impact Statements for Catherine Tameny.
The first person to speak was Catherine’s brother, Patrick Tameny. He is a forty-five year old man. His hair is still dark. He stepped up to the podium which was just inches away from me.
“She was a very loving person who did not deserve to die the way she did,” Patrick spoke in a very strong, unwavering voice. “What would have happened if my sister had been alive today?” He went on to express that he would have liked to have known.
“Why?” Patrick asked the court. “We will never know why. It is a fact of life that we have to be here today. I wish I didn’t have to be here today.
“He said he didn’t do it,” Patrick went on, “and we all know he did it.”
Patrick Tameny’s voice was powerful, and the whole court room sat silent and riveted. He finished and then sat down, with great emotion and dignity.
Next, the older sister of Catherine Tameny spoke. I didn’t catch her name. She started out, “I am the older sister of Cathy.” She explained that she and Cathy grew up separately, in separate households. She told that Cathy never knew her aunt. She wished she and Cathy could have by now shared their families together.
“I know the court is here on Earth. But I’m a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ. I do want to thank this court. I want to thank the District Attorney. Yet I do believe there is a higher power than this court.”
The sister sat down, and then the mother of Catherine Tameny stepped up. Her name is Caroline McCoy. She is a slender, medium-dark-grey-haired woman. “I missed a daughter,” she stated. “I missed her getting married, having more children.
“It took me a long time to talk to other parents. Now, there are no more tears, no more hugs. He denied me my only child. He chose to violently murder my daughter.”
Then, Caroline McCoy addressed Wendell Patrick Lemond directly, “I would give you the same death you gave to my daughter. No parents should ever have to bury their children.”
Then, the last speaker was Nick Medina, Catherine Tameny’s son. I imagined him being orphaned at the age of 2, left without mother or father, and I felt just by looking at him the impact this tragedy has had on his life and his psyche. He is a small to medium sized twenty-five-year-old man with very short brown hair. He spoke with candid honesty.
“I have issues,” he said. And then he repeated at some point again that he realizes that he has issues. “She couldn’t be there for my first day of school.” He went on about how his mother couldn’t see him get married or know her grandchildren.
“I do believe in the Lord like my Aunt does. Will I ever know the truth of what happened that day? No. I have to surrender to God.”
Judge Frank Fasel then, on behalf of the Court, expressed his condolences to the friends and family of Catherine Tameny. Then the sentence was read. Wendell Patrick Lemond made no statement. He said nothing. He sat with his back to me and to the whole court room audience as he sat quite close up to the judge’s bench. So, I could not look at his face. He was dark olive skinned. He had course features. He got 25 years to life in prison.
Alas, I left the court room overwhelmed and overwrought. I thought about how this is the place where Hector, Cara, George and Rene are having their case tried. Here they are, with people who are being tried and sentenced for Murder One. This is the company they are keeping inside the Orange County Jail. There are murderers in there on their way to prison. This is society’s lowest rung. This is not the place to be. I thought about Hector Porrata and his one thousand dollar suits he used to wear. He’s no longer the dandy he used to be…
These past few days I’ve thought about Caroline McCoy, and how she discovered the body of her murdered daughter. Here’s what I think about any one of us who has that kind of experience:
You can go on with your life; you can survive; you can find other life joys; but you can never recover from this kind of trauma. Full recovery won’t happen. It’s just not possible.
The feeling I got from Catherine Tameny’s friends and family was just like Catherine had just been murdered yesterday. It was as if 25 years had never transpired. This was a beautiful Orange County family that liked manicures and pedicures and got a kick out of getting tattooed. It was like a slice of time had been cut out like a piece out of a pie and time had collapsed. The pain in the hearts of these family and friends of Catherine Tameny knows no time… For them its perpetually 1985.
Readers may write to writer Lonce LaMon at email@example.com