Murder defendant to stand trial

Murder defendant to stand trial


A judge on Friday ordered a man to stand trial on charges he committed murder while robbing a Santa Maria residence in July.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Iwasko presided over the brief preliminary hearing held Friday in Santa Maria for Mark Arthur Morton, a  48-year-old transient.

The prosecution presented testimony during the hearing from a police detective, and showed video surveillance footage of Morton attacking the victim, Steven Tannenbaum, 55, said Deputy District Attorney Megan Ross.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Iwasko ruled there was sufficient evidence against Morton to hold him to answer all the charges filed against him: murder, second-degree robbery, first-degree residential burglary and a special allegation that Morton was personally armed with a bludgeoning instrument.

“The evidence was more than sufficient to surpass what’s needed for a preliminary hearing,” Ross said.

She said the video shows Morton begin the assault near the doorway of the victim’s home, and then he and Tannenbaum disappear into a bedroom out of view of the camera.

Tannenbaum was found dead in the bedroom, Ross added.

A friend of Tannenbaum found his body on July 13 in the house in the 800 block of East Orange Street.

However, Santa Maria police have said that the attack happened two days earlier, on July 11.

The video surveillance system set up in the house for unknown reasons captured Morton, a past acquaintance of Tannenbaum, stealing items including the victim’s wallet and credit cards, according to police.

Morton was arrested on July 31 in a Simi Valley homeless camp.

The defendant, who remains in County Jail without the option of bail, was already on felony probation for a heroin-sales case, according to Ross.

Charles Biely, Morton’s attorney, could not be reached Friday.

Morton is due back in court on Jan. 6 for a routine hearing.


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