Jury deliberations resume Thursday in the trial of a Palm Desert man accused of murdering a 36-year-old woman who planned to buy marijuana from him.
Sean Michael Mihajson, 24, is charged with the Oct. 12, 2007, slaying of North Palm Springs resident Shalonda Morris. He also faces special- circumstance allegations of lying in wait and murder in commission of a robbery, but prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
The defendant's twin sister, Vanesa Michelle Mihajson, was convicted in October 2011 of being an accessory to a felony and was sentenced to three years probation and 120 hours of community service.
Shalonda Morris, who also went by the name of "Shay," was last seen leaving her residence to meet Mihajson at his Palm Desert condominium, according to Deputy District Attorney Pete Nolan. She and a man named John Delgadillo, both cancer patients, had recommendations from doctors enabling them to buy medical marijuana and planned to pool their money to buy a pound of pot; but Delgadillo backed out of the deal and she withdrew more than $7,000 from the bank, according to Nolan.
Nolan said Mihajson asked his sister if he could borrow her van, then told her he didn't want her at their condominium and suggested she go to a mall. When she was at the mall, he asked her to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape at a Lowe's store, according to Nolan. A friend drove her there, then delivered the items to the condo, Nolan said.
Mihajson's girlfriend, who lived with him and his sister, was also dropped off at the mall, the prosecutor said. Once there, Vanesa Mihajson told a friend her brother planned to "rip off" Morris and said, "Shay's gone," according to Nolan.
The prosecutor claimed that Sean Mihajson later picked up his sister and girlfriend and took them to a motel, where they counted thousands of dollars in cash. The trio went from hotel to hotel and eventually went to Las Vegas, according to Nolan. About two weeks later, they went back to the Palm Desert condo, and the women noticed that Sean and his girlfriend's bedroom had new carpet, new bedding and new curtains, Nolan said.
Mihajson testified last week that he had nothing to do with Morris' disappearance. He claimed that the sheeting and tape were to have been used to wrap up his marijuana plant before his landlord got to town and that he and his sister and girlfriend went to the hotels and Las Vegas to party. He denied making improvements to the condo.
Nolan said in his closing argument last week that "here is one reasonable version of events in this case that has been told by every witness in this case except one, and that person's version is wholly unreasonable."
He said witnesses who didn't all know each other or the victim corroborated information, and Mihajson's statements and actions showed "consciousness of guilt."
"Why (tell Vanesa), 'Don't say anything?' Why tell her that if there's nothing that he did and nothing that she knows? ... What is he feeling guilty for if not for his involvement in the murder of Shalonda Morris?" Nolan said.
He said Mihajson first planned to rip Morris off, then planned to kill her.
"He's lying about his involvement. He's guilty of murdering Shalonda Morris," Nolan said.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Greg Johnson reiterated what he had said in his opening statement: that there was no forensic evidence that Mihajson killed Morris, an alleged drug dealer who had served prison time.
"The theory is he blew her brains out and there's blood everywhere ... that's why he's painting and laying down new carpet. But there's not a speck of anything -- anything -- anywhere," Johnson said.
He said Delgadillo and Morris' domestic partner, who testified, were both convicted felons, something the jury could consider.
"These people are not saints, they're not angels," he said.
He said his client "didn't have a chance" when police wanted to question him, and lied to protect himself. But after he bailed out of jail, he stayed in the area to attend hearings for another court case instead of fleeing.
Johnson said he wasn't going to justify his client's drug lifestyle, "but he's not a killer."
If convicted of first-degree murder and at least one special circumstance allegation, Mihajson faces life in prison without parole, according to the District Attorney's Office.