Iraq vet makes first court appearance

SANTA ANA John Wylie Needham, who was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured in combat last year, did not enter a plea. The 25-year-old is accused of beating his girlfriend, Jacqwlyn Joann Villagomez, to death. Villagomez died in the hospital an hour after deputies found her in a bedroom in a San Clemente condo she shared with Needham.

Deputies arrived at the condo around 11 p.m. Monday after receiving a call from another 19-year-old woman outside the home who had been verbally fighting with the victim. Authorities allege Needham answered the door naked and out of control.

"He did open the door, and then slammed the door shut," said prosecutor Scott Simmons. "The police ended up getting in and then was, Mr. Needham did put one of the officers in a bear hug. The officer was able to get out of the bear hug and they arrested him."

After being tasered and taken into custody, deputies discovered Villagomez clinging to life.

Needham's brother says John had become mentally unstable after serving two tours in Iraq. He says his brother was not happy and wanted his girlfriend to move out.

Villagomez was raised by her grandmother in Northern California after her mother died when she was 6 years old and her father moved to another country. The teenager had lived with Needham for about a month in the rented condo and babysat children for money.

"She didn't have a lot of family or anything, so she kind of came down this way to try to make it better for herself and just got caught up with some of the wrong people I think," said Debbie Krecu, a friend of Villagomez.

Needham's bail was set at $1 million. If convicted of first-degree murder, Needham will face a prison term of 25 years to life.


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