Richard Curtis Morris Jr. Guilty of Hit on Strip Club Owner During "Mickey Mouse Mafia" Days

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Guilty!
The Weekly now has an eighth example of Orange County strip club-related mayhem.

But it happened way back in 1987.

The addition to our "From the Vaults" list comes courtesy of a 59-year-old man being convicted Tuesday of slaying the owner of the Mustang Topless Theater and raping his girlfriend in their Buena Park condo in January of '87.

Here's our list before Nos. 8 and 9 are added:

Went to a Crime Scene and a Lap Dance Broke Out: 7 Examples of OC Strip Club Mayhem

The case also turns up in this Weekly cover story:

The Unsolved Murder of Joe Avila Is Only One of Many Loose Ends From OC's Coked-Out '80s

That piece includes what will be our new No. 8 mayhem entry. On May 1, 1987, just a week before Avila of Orange County's Avila Mexican food restaurant chain family was murdered in a cocaine-related case, local mobsters Joseph Angelo Grosso and Michael Anthony Rizzitello forced Bill Carroll, one of the Mustang club's investors, to a Costa Mesa parking garage. The two men were angry because Carroll had barred them from the club for selling coke. They shot him through the face, blinding him, but he survived, and both men were convicted of attempted murder and sent to prison, where Rizzitello later died.

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Courtesy of OCSD
James Lee Stockwell or Jimmy Casino
As reporter Nick Schou observes in his piece, the attempted murder of Carroll and murders of Avila and Mustang owner Jimmy Casino (real name James Lee Stockwell) were part of a string of assassinations, professional and otherwise, that occurred over a short period in the '80s, "spotlighting the city's status as a playground (and killing field) for shady businessmen, drug kingpins and organized crime figures affiliated with what cops dubbed the 'Mickey Mouse Mafia,' who reveled in Newport Beach's glamorous lifestyle and coke-fueled nightlife scene."

Here's how Schou described the hit on Casino, who possessed a three-decades-long rap sheet and heavy debts to the Mickey Mouse Mafia:

On Jan. 1, 1987, 48-year-old Jimmy Lee Casino, the owner of the Mustang Topless Theater, a Santa Ana strip club, returned to his Buena Park home after attending a New Year's Eve party with his 22-year-old girlfriend. As the LA Times later reported, two "masked and armed intruders were waiting. The intruders tied up and raped his girlfriend and dragged Casino downstairs. They ransacked the condo, taking jewelry, furs, credit cards and two cars." Then they shot Casino three times in the head.

The case went cold for decades. Then, in May 2008, Richard C. Morris Jr. was arrested in Hawaii for drunken driving and DNA evidence was taken from him. A crime database found a match to evidence collected in the Casino murder. Morris was arrested at his home in Oahu in 2008 and extradited to Orange County in connection with the shooting.

A DNA match also linked Morris to the killing of a Pasadena grocery store owner in May 1987, a crime he was charged with in April 2010. But an Orange County judge dismissed that case for lack of jurisdiction. Los Angeles County prosecutors have not filed charges against Morris in the slaying that happened during a robbery.

In the Casino case, Morris tried to blame the murder on a man who used one of the strip club owner's credit cards after his death. Initially a suspect, the credit-card thief was never charged with Casino's murder.

Investigators also considered three-striker Frank Randazzo a suspect while he was serving life sentences for crimes in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. He tried to cut a deal to reveal Casino's murderer in exchange for a reduced sentence and needed heart surgery, but the deal fell through when his statements could not be tied to what the DNA evidence was showing. Randazzo later admitted to lying and died in prison. But his taped statements were played to jurors in the Morris case.

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