Orick resident Ronald Loureiro Jr. must stand trial on a charge that he murdered his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend by stabbing him in the heart as Loureiro’s own young sons looked on.
Today, at the end of Loureiro’s preliminary hearing, Judge Christopher Wilson held him to answer on charges of murder, the special allegation of using a knife and three counts of child endangerment. It’s also alleged Loureiro has two prior strikes under California’s Three Strikes You’re Out law. One is for an assault with a firearm conviction in 2007, the other a 2015 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.
Loureiro, 30, allegedly stabbed 34-year-old Vernon James Weatherford to death the morning of Jan. 4 as Weatherford sat in a car at Highway 101 and Dryden Road in Orick. He was with his girlfriend Jacqueline Carter and Carter’s three sons with Loureiro. The boys, ages 8, 6 and 2, were in the back seat of the car.
California Highway Patrol Officer Ethan Thompson testified he arrived at the scene to find paramedics treating a man lying in the roadway. Thompson also encountered an hysterical woman, later identified as Carter.
Carter named the stabber as “Ron,” Thompson said under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham, and she later identified Loureiro as Ron.
Under cross-examination by Deputy Conflict Counsel Joe Judge, Thompson said Carter did not appear to be under the influence and was acting appropriately considering what she had just witnessed.
Sheriff’s investigator Mark Peterson, the lead investigator on the case, testified that when he arrived at the crime scene paramedics were gone and the body in the roadway was covered by a blanket or sheet. Two days later he attended the autopsy, at which forensic pathologist Dr. Mark Super found a single stab wound that fatally damaged Weatherford’s heart.
Defense attorney Judge asked whether Peterson was aware that Weatherford had elevated levels of methamphetamine in his system.
“I don’t recall the amount,” Peterson said, “but I do recall that methamphetamine was present.”
The investigator said he was not able to speak to Carter about the stabbing until a week later, “due to her grief and her inability to articulate her thoughts.” When he took her statement, Carter told him Weatherford had been her boyfriend for about a year. He also acted as a father to her sons with Loureiro.
“The children identified him as a father figure and called him Dad,” Peterson said.
Sheriff’s Detective Heather Havens spoke with the boys the day of the stabbing. She testified today that the 8-year-old was distraught, while the 6-year-old “stated that he was sad.”
The 6-year-old told Havens he had seen Ron stab Vernon, who he described as his dad.
“My real dad stabbed him,” the boy told the detective.
According to his published obituary, Weatherford left behind three daughters, his mother, three siblings and many other relatives, along with Carter and her three sons.
Loureiro is scheduled for arraignment on the charges on Aug. 8. He has been in Humboldt County Correctional Facility since the day of the stabbing. This morning he sat next to his attorney at the counsel table, wearing standard jail-issued clothing and listening quietly. He has acquired a pair of eyeglasses since his mugshot was taken.