3.20.2010

TS - Testimony dives into tangled web of drugs and sex in Sanders' case


Testimony dives into tangled web of drugs and sex in Sanders' case

A friend of 30-year-old McKinleyville man Ezra Sanders, who was shot and killed on Feb. 24, testified that she began to believe that her roommates were behind his death when investigators raided her Eureka house looking for stolen goods weeks later.

Ana Rooney said that during the search, investigators asked her if she knew Sanders, and she recalled hearing her “best friend” Jeffrey Alan Burgess talking about burning his clothes the day of the killing. Rooney testified that she began to feel responsible for Sanders' death because, if it weren't for her, he would not have become acquainted with her roommates and friends who investigators claim killed Sanders.

”I was sick to my stomach,” Rooney said in tears. “I wanted to die ... . I am not a monster and I do not believe this was right.”

Rooney said she had stayed at the Lewis Street house after Sanders' death because she didn't want to believe her friend Burgess was involved in the killing. She testified Wednesday that she moved out of the house after the search.

Sanders was found dead of a single gunshot wound outside his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park in McKinleyville around 1 a.m. Feb. 24. Investigators say the murder was a botched robbery, as Sanders' body was found with large amounts of money and some drugs.

Burgess, 39, of Eureka, is charged with Sanders' murder, along with Lukas Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka. The four have pleaded not guilty.

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Rooney said that the day before the killing, she had sold Sanders an ounce of methamphetamine for $1,400, and that he repaid a long outstanding debt of $300 to her, and loaned her $1,200 to pay off a drug debt. Rooney said that Sanders had been quoted a higher price for an ounce of meth by Williams, after which he came to Rooney for a better deal. Rooney said that Williams may have felt slighted by the transaction.

Rooney also testified that Sanders wasn't treated well at the Lewis Street house, where he showed up to buy and use drugs, and meet with Williams. She described Williams as flaunting herself and engaging in sex to secure drugs from a number of men.

Rooney said that she never told anyone at the Lewis Street house that Sanders was carrying a large amount of money, because she was afraid he might become a target.

”He liked (Williams), but he didn't trust her,” Rooney said, “and he had very good reason not to.”

Attorneys for the defendants on Wednesday questioned Rooney about her memory of the events leading up to Sanders' killing.

Under cross-examination, Rooney repeatedly said Mace was a nice guy who'd begun to stay at the Lewis Street house before the shooting, though she could not recall exactly how long he'd been there. She also said that she believed Mace was merely “caught in the crossfire” of the crime, and that he was likely unaware of the intent of Burgess, Peredia and Williams when they picked him up and drove to Sanders' trailer on Feb. 24.

Defense attorneys also asked Rooney about why she left a volunteer position as a resident advisor at a halfway house before she moved into the Lewis Street residence in December.

Rooney said she left after she broke the rules of the program by allowing a friend of hers to hang out at the house, and decided to resign. Rooney, who is on felony probation, said she began using and dealing drugs when she moved into the Lewis Street house. Rooney also testified that she'd helped Williams' mother bail Williams out of jail after her arrest. When Williams returned to the house, Rooney confronted her about property she believed Williams had stolen from her.

”I came back and I socked her right in the lip,” Rooney said, “yes I did.”

The preliminary hearing continues today.

John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com.