Murder trial under way without body

Eighteen years ago, amid a world of muscle cars and hard partying, a 14-year-old boy executed Bobby Perruquet, prosecutors said, as the Daly City man sat inside his beloved baby blue 1979 Monte Carlo.

On Monday, opening statements began in the murder trial of Mohammed Monie, the San Francisco man prosecutors accuse of masterminding the killing in order to strip Perruquet’s car for parts.

Both the defense and prosecution admit the case is unusual. Perruquet disappeared on April 29, 1989, and his body has never been found. Prosecutors admit that Monie didn’t shoot the 25-year-old victim. Neither DNA evidence nor fingerprints have tied Monie, now 40, to the crime scene.

On Monday, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Al Giannini told the jury there is no doubt that Monie is responsible for the crime.

The confessed shooter, Jesse Rodriguez, told police in 2005 that he killed Perruquet at Monie’s direction and that the pair dumped the body near Crystal Springs Reservoir. Monie was later indicted by a grand jury and Rodriguez was never prosecuted due to his age. Now, Rodriguez is the prosecution’s star witness.

During the trial, jurors will hear from acquaintances who ran in the same car circles as Monie and Perruquet, Giannini said. Witnesses will recount how, on the afternoon before the murder, Monie said he despised white people, hated Perruquet in particular due to a drug debt and described how to get away with the perfect murder, Giannini said.

Prosecutors say Monie told friends that the perfect setup would be carried out by lacing marijuana with PCP in order to disorient the victim and to then convince someone else to do the killing — a plan Giannini said came to fruition the night Perruquet was killed.

Giannini described Rodriguez as a boy from a broken home who desperately looked up to Monie, then 21, and followed him around to the point where Monie called him his dog.

But at more than 6 feet tall and 280 pounds, Rodriguez was not “an innocent lamb of a child,” contends Monie’s attorney, Public Defender Connie O’Brien.

It’s possible Monie didn’t even know Rodriguez’s age, as the boy packed a gun, drank heavily, didn’t attend school and drove a car, she said. O’Brien told jurors that the case is based on shoddy police work, unreliable witnesses and very little evidence against Monie.

Monie, who is facing a first-degree murder charge with the special circumstance of robbery, will face life in prison without parole if convicted. Trial resumes today at 9 a.m.

Confessed gunman not charged

A glitch in the law played a heavy hand in who was held to answer for Bobby Perruquet’s killing 18 years ago.

In 2005, after investigators took a new look at the crime, Jesse Rodriguez confessed to killing Perruquet in 1989 after Mohammed Monie allegedly signaled the then-14-year-old to shoot.

But prosecutors never charged Rodriguez. In 1989, an offender had to be at least 16 to be charged as an adult. California voters lowered the age to 14 in 2000, but the law cannot be applied retroactively. When Rodriguez finally confessed, he was older than 30.

“He is too old today to be put into a juvenile facility and too young then to be charged as an adult,” San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Al Giannini said.

Prosecutors had no choice but to let Rodriguez remain free and charge only Monie, who was 21 at the time of the crime, with first-degree murder.

Rodriguez was living in Los Angeles with his family when the case was re-examined in 2005. Investigators pulled over his minivan as he was driving his children to school and took him in for questioning. Rodriguez told investigators he was “ashamed and disgusted” by what he had done as a 14-year-old, Giannini said.

Monie’s attorney, Connie O’Brien, told jurors on Monday that there is virtually no evidence tying her client to Perruquet’s killing.

“This is not a case about Mohammed Monie committing murder,” she said. “This is a case about how Jesse Rodriguez got away with murder,” she said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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