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Former Valencia woman found guilty of murder

• Rothwell may face 16 years to life in prison.

Posted: April 18, 2008 1:21 a.m.
Updated: June 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.
An Orange County jury convicted a Valencia woman who called herself the devil and stabbed an acquaintance who said he found God of second degree murder, officials announced early Thursday morning. The verdict was announced in Superior Court Judge Daniel Barrett McNerney's courtroom in Santa Ana.

Samantha Rothwell, 21, was at a party at the Hotel Huntington Beach on the night of Aug. 15, 2006 when she stabbed 18-year-old Walter Rivas, who was standing on a balcony outside of a room. According to prosecutors, Rothwell, who was on the balcony smoking, stabbed Rivas when he said he "saw God."

Rivas was in Long Beach earlier that day, visiting the grave of Bradley Nowell, frontman for the popular band Sublime, who died of a heroin overdose in 1996.

Later that evening, Rivas attended a birthday party at the Hotel Huntington Beach. Rothwell, who visited from her home in Valencia, attended the same party. Witnesses at the party said that Rivas was on the balcony with Rothwell and told her, "I think I saw God at the beach."

According to the witnesses, Rothwell subsequently responded, "I am the Devil. Don't tell me about God."

During the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Sonia Balleste told jury members that Rothwell then grabbed a small pocket knife from her room and stabbed Rivas in the jugular vein and back.

When Rothwell returned into the hotel room to join the group that was inside, she told everyone that the stabbing was not a "big deal" and for them "to get over it," according to Balleste.

Rivas' last words, according to two witnesses, were, "Tell my mom I love her."

Rothwell's attorney, Senior Deputy Public Defender Christopher Hilger, said to the jury that she stabbed Rivas during "an emotionally impulsive moment."

With the felony conviction, Rothwell could face up to 16 years to life in prison. Her sentencing will be on June 13 at the Orange County Superior Court.


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