I Heart SCV
Murdered Neighbors
September, 2017 - Issue #156
"None of that means he's a MURDERER, but it's far from helpful to his case."
It feels like Santa Clarita has a lot of murder trials because (1) We do, and (2) All of them drag out unresolved for years. Los Angeles courts are busy and attorneys are often in no particular hurry to get to trial, so we wait. But as summer gives way to fall, a few murder cases are finally moving forward, and some may even be wrapping up. Before you catch these cases on "Dateline"or binge-watching the Investigation Discovery channel, pay attention to the news as it's breaking.

A Short-lived Marriage
Robert Arvizu married Courtney Arvizu when she was 25 - about half his own age. The couple was launching a clothing line inspired by a verse in the Book of Proverbs ("Iron sharpens iron..."). However, just two months into the marriage in 2015, Courtney was found dead in their Newhall apartment. She had been clubbed over the head with a beer bottle. Her husband quickly became the lead suspect and was arrested.

As of this writing, the jury trial is underway. Robert Arvizu's alleged penchant for choking or strangling has been a major focus. An ex-girlfriend of Arvizu testified that she had been repeatedly choked by him. On one occasion, she said it went on for so long that she blacked out. A photo of Courtney Arvizu with red marks around her neck was also submitted as evidence in the trial. The photo was taken just a day after the couple's marriage, when police investigated the disturbance reported from their hotel room. None of that means he's a murderer, but it's far from helpful to his case.

Murder on Sierra Highway
Long overdue is the trial of Michael Joe McGlothan, a truck driver accused of murdering Ledarion Allen Jr. and of shooting and wounding Shatari Shene Cooks. McGlothan allegedly shot Allen and Cooks inside the Canyon Country apartment he shared with Cooks, his girlfriend at the time. We don't know all the details, but it certainly has the appearance of a domestic dispute that escalated to a deadly ending. In the aftermath of the shootings, McGlothan left town in a sedan and was seen in the San Fernando Valley before disappearing. The authorities tried to track him down for weeks but to no avail. It wasn't until a month later that they were able to use his cell phone to determine he was in the New York area. He was driving a Volvo semi-truck thorough a toll stop when he was finally arrested there and brought back to California.

There are no other suspects, and the case has been thoroughly investigated, but setting a trial date for the 2015 shootings has taken a long time. In the most recent development, another pre-trial hearing was set for fall. That pushes an official trial date back further still. When will the running stop?

Justice Delayed
Our murder round-robin has taken us from Canyon Country to Newhall and now to Castaic. Some three years ago, 87-year-old James Gillis was found dead in his home. The murder was particularly gruesome. A serrated knife was still embedded in his chest when his body was examined. According to the medical examiner, James Gillis had also been struck with objects leaving blunt force trauma. Awaiting trial for his murder is Gillis' own daughter, with whom he shared the home, Denise Gillis.

Despite the fact that no trial has yet occurred, Denise Gillis has made many appearances in court. There were questions about her competence to stand trial but she has been cleared to move forward. The case remains both deeply sad and deeply fascinating: an alleged female murderer, a brutal attack and no apparent motive. Even with this and other murders staining the reputation of our valley, it's still quite possible to heart the SCV. Crime is an unavoidable part of life, even here, and the best we can hope for is eventual justice. Still, it doesn't hurt to keep one eye open...
This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions, catty comments and veiled threats intended for the author can be e-mailed to
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