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Ventura cold case heats up and leads to life sentence

It’s been almost 20 years since Jake Bush,16, was fatally stabbed in his Ventura home after interrupting a burglary.

It happened on June 24, 1997. Bush and his mother had just returned home from a shopping trip when they noticed things amiss. They soon realized a burglar was hiding in their Swift Avenue home.

Before the intruder got away, he stabbed Bush multiple times.

Paramedics and police kept the Buena High track team member alive long enough to get to the hospital, but he did not survive.

Police kept the evidence safe until advanced technology helped investigators solve the cold case. One Ventura officer kept a reminder of the unsolved murder on his desk for a decade.

The evidence collected included a palm print on a windowsill and feces found in a closet.

“Actually, it was a palm print that solved this case, we also had DNA evidence, and after the palm print solved the case, then DNA confirmed that is was the defendant,” said Sr. Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Day.

Day said it matched Marco Casillas, who was 19 at the time of the crime, and is now a husband and father from Port Hueneme.

“Back in the day the police agency didn’t collect palm prints, they only collected finger prints and so although the defendant’s finger prints were in the system, his palm print was not and so this case has demonstrated how so many advances in our technology, science and police collection and maintenance of evidence has allowed us to prove and resolve cases that were long unsolved,” said Day.

On Wednesday morning, Jake’s stepfather, Robert Shirley, read an emotional statement about the “eternal grief” caused by a “callous crime.”

Casillas sat still and did not make a statement.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco sentenced Casillas to life without the possibility of parole. The judge called it a just sentence.

Outside the Hall of Justice, Day talked about the victim’s family.

“It has really devastated their lives, and broken their hearts, and so it was particularly emotional and difficult, but we have done the best we can in achieving the best justice in this case,” said Day.

Casillas looked at his family, seated behind him, before leaving the courtroom.

He has 60 days to file an appeal.

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