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Mastermind of deadly burglary at Anza marijuana grow sentenced

Jodi Lynn Miller
Jodi Lynn Miller

A convicted felon who killed a 64-year-old Anza man while stealing marijuana and money tied to his illegal cannabis grow was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jodi Lynn Miller, 48, of Rancho Cucamonga was convicted last month with Jesse Robert Thurbush, 43, of Victorville of first-degree murder for the 2019 slaying of James Cidney Brown.

Along with the murder count, a Murrieta jury found Miller and Thurbush guilty of burglary, false imprisonment and special-circumstance allegations of killing in the course of a burglary and killing during the commission of a robbery.

During a hearing at the Southwest Justice Center Friday, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon imposed the sentence required by state law.

Thurbush, who is being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center, is slated for sentencing on July 26.

Jesse Robert Thurbush

Their co-defendant, James Max Robinson, 43, of San Bernardino, reached a plea deal with the District Attorney's Office at the outset of the trial, admitting voluntary manslaughter. In exchange for the admission, prosecutors dropped murder and other charges against him. He's being held without bail at
the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning and is due for sentencing on June 14.

James Max Robinson

According to a brief filed by Robinson's attorney last year, when he sought to have some of the charges against his client dismissed, Miller was the ringleader, and she invited Robinson and Thurbush to her Rancho Cucamonga home on the night of Nov. 2, 2019, to smoke methamphetamine.

The brief, based on evidence presented during the trio's 2022 preliminary hearing, said Miller wanted to steal marijuana and money from Brown, about whom she'd received information from a friend, James McCance, who tended to the illicit outdoor cannabis grow at the victim's property in the 39000 block of El Toro Road.   

Miller got a layout of the property from McCance and persuaded Robinson and Thurbursh to join her in the robbery. The threesome set off in the predawn hours of Nov. 3, 2019.

They arrived just before 6 a.m., cutting through a fence to gain access, then parking outside the victim's house, where Miller armed herself with a revolver, and the two men armed themselves with rifles, with Robinson remaining outside to watch for law enforcement.

Miller and Thurbush slipped into the home through an unlocked back door and found a worker, John Fuggiero, asleep on a front room sofa and Brown asleep in his room with the door shut, the brief said.

The defendants subdued Fuggiero with zip ties and sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, then proceeded into Brown's room, where Robinson discharged spray into the victim's closed eyes, causing him to wake in a panic and bolt out of the room, according to court documents.

Miller was directly in the fleeing man's path and fired several shots at him.

"She was standing there with a gun and ... shot Brown because he was running at her,'' according to the brief.   

Miller and Thurbush ransacked the property for 20 minutes, looking for money and marijuana packages, then fled, along with Robinson, sheriff's investigators said.

Fuggiero freed himself from the restraints an hour later, calling 911. Deputies arrived at 7:30 a.m. and found Brown dead in the front room. Fuggiero was treated for minor injuries.

After Central Homicide Unit detectives searched the grounds, the illegal grow was razed, and all remaining cannabis was seized and destroyed.   

The investigation spanned almost 18 months before the three defendants were connected to the murder and arrested in the summer of 2021.   

Court records show Miller had a prior felony conviction in another jurisdiction, but it was not specified, while both Robinson and Thurbush each had priors for burglary.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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