Trial set in teen’s fatal stabbing at Modesto park

01/28/2014 5:29 PM

01/28/2014 6:34 PM

A judge on Tuesday scheduled a trial to start Sept. 15 for three defendants accused of murder in the stabbing of a teenager killed during a botched robbery at an east Modesto park a year ago.

Before Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves set the trial date, another judge rejected motions challenging the charges against defendants Taylor Koplen, 18, Jacob Segura, 19, and Juan Garcia, 16.

Authorities believe the defendants accosted 18-year-old Tylor Crippen and his girlfriend Jan. 29, 2013, before chasing Crippen into Creekwood Park, a few blocks west of Claus Road. Authorities believe Koplen then stabbed Crippen.

Before they encountered the young couple, prosecutors say, the defendants stole a knife from another man during a confrontation at the same park. The stolen knife was used several minutes later in the attack on Crippen, according to prosecutors.

Along with the murder charge, the defendants also must face charges of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery, along with enhancements of committing a crimes for the benefit of the Norteño street gang.

Defense attorneys argued that the defendants should not be charged with robbery because the knife fell out of the man’s pocket during a fight. Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley disagreed, saying the preliminary hearing transcript indicates there is sufficient evidence to support the robbery charge.

Mark Sullivan, Segura’s attorney, also challenged the special circumstance allegation and the gang enhancement added to the charges. Sullivan argued that his client tried to pull Koplen off Crippen before the incident got out of hand, and that his client was too drunk to know whether he was committing a crime on behalf of a gang.

Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira argued that Segura was able to speak clearly to investigators soon after the attack on Crippen. She also said Segura and Garcia helped Koplen stab Crippen, because they assisted in the robbery attempt and chased Crippen into the park before the stabbing.

Ashley agreed with the prosecutor and upheld the special circumstance allegation and the gang enhancement against Segura.

The defendants then were sent to Reeves’ courtroom, where she scheduled the trial, as well as a trial readiness hearing for July 25. The trial is estimated to last about eight weeks. The defendants remain in custody.

Family, friends and neighbors are gathering for a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. today at Creekwood Park to remember Crippen. His family has created the Tylor Crippen Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide a $500 annual scholarship for a Johansen High School senior who wants to become a nurse. To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/events/659459447429779.

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