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Man involved in deadly burglary at Anza marijuana grow sentenced


A felon who joined two others in burglarizing an illegal marijuana grow in Anza, where the 64-year-old proprietor was gunned down, was sentenced today to 21 years in state prison.

James Max Robinson, 43, of San Bernardino pleaded guilty in April to voluntary manslaughter under an agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. In exchange for his admission, which came at the outset of his and his co-defendants' trial, prosecutors dropped murder and other charges
against Robinson.

During a hearing at the Southwest Justice Center Friday, Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon imposed the terms stipulated under the plea deal.   

Last week, the mastermind of the deadly burglary, 48-year-old Jodi Lynn Miller of Rancho Cucamonga, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A Murrieta jury in May convicted her and Jesse Robert Thurbush, 43, of Victorville of first-degree murder for the 2019 slaying of James Cidney Brown.   

Along with the murder count, jurors 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.   

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

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 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, as they smoked meth, she persuaded Robinson and Thurbursh to join her in the robbery, according to the brief. 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, the brief said.

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, according to the brief.   

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, the brief said.

"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, court documents 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.  

Both Robinson and Thurbush each had prior convictions for burglary. Miller had a prior felony in another jurisdiction, but it was not specified.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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