Ventura- VPD Major Crimes Investigators arrested a Port Hueneme resident, Marco Antonio Casillas on Monday for a murder that occurred 17 years ago in the city of Ventura. Casillas, 36, was in the midst of serving a jail sentence at the Ventura County Jail after pleading guilty in October of 2013 to receiving stolen property, when he was arrested for the 1997 homicide of 16 year old Ventura resident, Jake Bush.
On June 24, 1997, James (Jake) Bush was stabbed to death by a would be burglar when he returned to his home after a morning out with his mother, Balboa Middle School teacher, Gail Shirley. After returning to their Montalvo residence, James and his mother realized their home had been burglarized. Little did they know that they had actually interrupted a burglary in progress and that the burglar was hiding in the study.
As Gail Shirley called 911 to report the crime, Jake walked around the house to ascertain what exactly had been stolen. As soon as he stepped into the front bedroom which had been converted into a study, Jake was stabbed in the neck, arm and chest. “From looking at the house and the bloodstains, it looks like Jake took one step into the study and then got it” said Jake’s stepfather, Bob Shirley.
As Gail went to the aid of her only child, the suspect abruptly fled from the residence, tossing the murder weapon into a neighbor’s driveway, a 13 inch folding knife with a 7″ serrated blade touted as “The Intimidator” in a mail order catalog. Jake was given CPR by the first responding officer and transported to the Ventura County Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries during surgery.
While eyewitnesses were able to provide enough details to produce a composite drawing of the suspect, the case went cold until the VPD obtained additional evidence in 2002. Shortly after Ventura county’s crime lab was certified for DNA testing, the murder weapon, which had been kept in a VPD freezer for 5 years, was subjected to a “Short Tandem Repeater”, a specialized DNA test through which analysts believe they were able to identify the suspects DNA profile.
At the time, no matches were readily identified at the Department of Justice’s DNA databank in Sacramento and the case went cold, again. That is, until March of this year when the Department of Justice contacted the VPD Major Crimes Investigators with a palm print match to the crime scene and subsequently, a DNA profile match. VPD detectives paired up with the Ventura County Sheriff Cold Case Task Force and honed in on the activities of the suspect prior to the 1997 homicide and up through the present time.
As it turns out, 19 year old Marco Casillas was arrested for burglary by the Oxnard PD back in September of 1997 and sent to state prison for 32 months in June of 1998. After re-interviewing witnesses and further analyzing all of the forensic evidence, the VPD made the arrest on Monday, July 7th. According to a VPD press release, “The family is relieved and grateful that their son’s killer has been apprehended and is anxious to cooperate and assist the prosecution in seeking justice for Jake.” Marco Casillas will be arraigned on August 8, 2014.
LATIMES: New hope in search for killer
EdHat: Cold Case Homicide arrest
Silcom: Who killed Jake Bush?