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Angel Ruelas pleads guilty to murder of Pacific Grove teen

May 14, 2012

from the story by Virginia Hennessey for the Mercury News:

The brother of murder victim Kristopher Eric Olinger and the man who unexpectedly admitted killing the Monterey High School student hope to find some peace as part of the "restorative justice" program.

Angel Ruelas' plea Tuesday was a stunning development that came nearly 15 years after Olinger's horrific murder, six years after the defendant's arrest and moments before a pool of prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom for trial.

That trial will now proceed only against older brother Jacobo Ruelas Jr., 33, who continues to maintain his innocence.

....Defense attorney Steve Liner said his client told him Tuesday morning he wanted to accept responsibility for his actions and save Travis Phillips, Olinger's half-brother, the pain of a trial. He said Ruelas understands Phillips wants to meet, and has offered to do so.

Phillips, who was 10 when his brother was slain, said he is not ready to forgive Ruelas, but wants to sit with him face-to-face as part of the restorative justice process he and his late father deeply believed in.

Olinger's birth father died of a brain tumor when he was 2 weeks old. His mother later married Loren Phillips, who became the only father Olinger knew. When he died in 2008, five years after his wife, Loren Phillips was a leader on the Community Restorative Justice Commission, which connects crime victims and their offenders for purposes of healing and crime prevention.

"From what I've been told, (Angel Ruelas) wants to take part in that process and face me and apologize for his actions," Travis Phillips said Tuesday. "I'm not sure if I'm ready to forgive him, or if I ever will be, but I've got to try to take part in the process.

"I strongly believe in restorative justice ... in bringing the victims and offenders together to learn from the experience in a sense," he said. "In my opinion, if you don't solve the problem, then what's the point?"

Olinger's maternal aunt, Kimberly Watters of Virginia, said she is also willing to participate, for her own catharsis and "to tell him the horrific consequences of what he did."

Any reconciliation will be postponed until the completion of Jacobo Ruelas' trial. He showed no emotion Tuesday as his brother entered his plea. The first 125 of about 500 potential jurors were then brought in to complete questionnaires regarding their ability to serve on a four-week trial.

Read the whole article.

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