Surveillance Video Helps Crack Case Of California Man Found ‘Thrown Out Like Trash’ In Barrel
Omar Medina suddenly vanished while in the process of moving out of his Chula Vista home.
A California man moving out of his home suddenly vanished, and it would take police scouring hours and hours of surveillance video to solve what happened to him.
In late September 2017, Omar Medina, 28, was in the process of leaving an addition he lived in that was attached to the house of his landlord, Timothy Cook.
After Medina’s sister, Alicia Villegas, and their mother hadn’t heard from him in over two days, Villegas contacted the Chula Vista Police Department. Loved ones and police launched a search for the missing musician, and family located Medina’s unlocked Cadillac several blocks from the home he was moving out of. Many of his possessions, including a computer, were still inside the vehicle, but Medina was nowhere to be found.
Investigators paid a visit to Cook. The landlord claimed he hadn’t seen Medina for about a week, and he allowed detectives to check out Medina’s former residence. Detectives found the addition in disarray, with a broken window and the carpet ripped out. Cook explained away the condition of the place by telling police he was renovating and planned to turn it into a game room.
Investigators began to obtain surveillance video from the area in an attempt to figure out Medina’s movements before he disappeared. Footage from a gas station near Cook’s home showed what appeared to be Medina’s vehicle passing by the intersection toward the area where it was discovered abandoned.
Then, on Oct. 12, 2017, twelve days after Medina’s disappearance, the harbor patrol responded to calls in San Diego Bay about a 55-gallon barrel floating in the water. Inside, authorities found a brown blanket and decomposing human remains. “It was a gruesome discovery,” says Sgt. Levar Brown with the Chula Vista Police Department. “The body was thrown out like trash out in the bay. The perpetrator didn’t have any thought of human life.”
A pathologist performed an autopsy on the body and determined the victim suffered approximately 66 stab wounds. All detectives had to go on to identify the victim were some tattoos, including one on an ankle. “We reached out to the family” who reported Medina missing, Sgt. Brown says, “and ultimately they confirmed that there was a tattoo that matched a tattoo that was on the unidentified body.”
After police made the identification, investigators began to work on establishing who could have killed Medina. They turned to surveillance video from cameras located around the harbor and marina where the victim’s body was found.
Combing through footage recorded the day before the grisly discovery, investigators got their first big break. In one video, a green pickup truck could be seen arriving at the harbor towing a small freshwater boat not designed for use in saltwater.
After the driver unloaded the boat into the water, video showed, the vehicle’s passenger got into the watercraft and headed out into San Diego Bay before returning in less than an hour. Investigators noted the boat sat higher in the water when it came back, indicating it was lighter. “This is when they took Omar out into the bay,” Sgt. Brown says of the excursion caught on camera.
The driver of the truck and the passenger, both males, quickly became the focus of the investigation into Medina’s disappearance. Though detectives couldn’t make out the license or registration number of the vehicle or boat in the video, they were able to see the green truck was a model from the 1990s.
Through the California Department of Motor Vehicles, investigators also obtained a list of owners of boats similar in make and model to the one in the video.
In the meantime, detectives focused in on Medina’s former landlord and set up surveillance on him. According to Sgt. Brown, Cook was observed pressure washing his driveway, and packing items into trash bags. Officers pulled Cook over as he drove away with the bags, which later were determined to contain wet rags and other items that smelled of bleach.
After investigators obtained a warrant for Cook’s arrest, they managed to locate and seize the green pickup truck seen in the marina footage. While processing the truck, investigators found a mug with a photograph on it of a man as well as a Home Depot receipt. A fingerprint lifted from the receipt was run through a database and came back with a match: Derrick Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s mug shot showed he was the same man in the photo on the mug. Police searched Spurgeon’s property and seized the boat they believed was used to dispose of Medina’s body.
Surveillance video recorded at Home Depot at the time listed on the receipt showed Spurgeon purchasing cleaning supplies, a push broom and other items.
Forensic processing of Medina’s living space indicated bleach was used in the space and “someone went through great lengths and great effort to hide what occurred” there, Sgt. Brown says.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville says prosecutors believed Cook’s motive for the murder was financial after photographs of Medina’s banking information, social security number and other personal details were found in Cook’s Google account.
Sgt. Brown says that based on the evidence, on Sept. 30, 2017, Medina went to Cook’s home because he was still owed his security deposit. “There was some sort of altercation where Omar was ultimately killed,” Brown says, adding Cook had everything he would have needed to “withdraw all the money from Omar’s account.”
In December 2017, police arrested Cook and Spurgeon and both pleaded not guilty. Cook eventually was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 45 years to life behind bars.
Spurgeon later pleaded guilty to unlawfully disposing of a dead body in exchange for a six-month sentence served in county jail.
For more on this case, stream See No Evil: "Body in a Barrel" on Max.