Movie Theater Murders – Man Who Gunned Down Couple Watching Movie Due for Sentencing

Connor Forbes
Connor Forbes
6 Min Read

Movie Theater Murders

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A 23-year-old schizophrenic and chronic marijuana user who fatally shot a young man and woman as they watched a movie at a Corona theater is slated to be sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Joseph Jimenez was declared sane at the conclusion of a bench trial in December, clearing the way for his conviction of two counts of first-degree murder special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and taking multiple lives, as well as sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

Jimenez had argued that he was insane at the time of the crime, but Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst found the defendant was mentally competent.

The defendant is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning and is slated to be sentenced Monday morning at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

Jimenez fatally shot Anthony Barajas, 19, and Rylee Goodrich, 18, both of Corona, in 2021 at the Regal Edwards Theater.

Movie Theater Murders. Corona Theater Murders. Rylee Goodrich
Rylee Goodrich

His attorney, Charles Kenyon, argued that Jimenez could not “discern right and wrong.”

“He doesn’t recognize things in real time,” he said. “There are things highlighted in his brain that aren’t there. He’s hearing ghosts.”

Kenyon acknowledged Jimenez had appeared normal throughout the two- week sanity trial because “he’s been medicated for 28 months, and he’s in a controlled environment,” a deep contrast to his life leading up to the killings.

Kenyon described how his client suffered following the loss of his mother a year prior to the deadly attack and was plagued by voices commanding him to engage in violence and even take his father’s life before the elder Jimenez could kill him and his sisters.

“This is a person who is literally insane. He thinks he is going to die. All of his delusions were 100% schizophrenia,” the attorney said.

The attorney said the “persecutory delusions,” which several psychologists found valid, “caused him to kill.”

Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham countered the defense on virtually every point, emphasizing that Jimenez was not bereft of help, being admitted to hospitals for mental health treatment multiple times over the 11 months prior to the killings.

“The discharge orders were always the same — take your medication and don’t do drugs,” Beecham said, “But he does the exact opposite.”

Movie Theater Murders. Corona Theater Murders. Anthony Barajas
Anthony Barajas

According to the prosecutor, Jimenez failed to show up for appointments with doctors, didn’t get his psychotropic medications refilled and regularly used marijuana and “chugged” alcohol, capturing much of the recreational substance abuse on his cellphone camera and sharing the images.

Beecham said while the defense sought to paint Jimenez as a sympathetic character, “he’s not credible, and he has a tendency to exaggerate facts and a history of placating practitioners.”

Beecham pointed to videos of the defendant smoking cannabis and conversing normally with friends as evidence Jimenez wasn’t out of control. Further proof surfaced in his procurement of a 9mm home-assembled “ghost gun” a month prior to the theater attack.

On the night of July 26, 2021, Jimenez joined his best friend, Julian Velasquez, and two other high school buddies to see “The Forever Purge,” a horror film about societal collapse. Only the four friends and the two victims were in the theater.

Velasquez testified Jimenez was behaving erratically, murmuring to himself and staring down his pals.

Beecham recounted that although Jimenez gave the impression of lacking lucidity, he took time to “hit on a girl” before going into the theater and was alert enough to know where to go unassisted. Within a few minutes of the movie starting, Jimenez left and retrieved a backpack from his car, then returned and sat back down. A few rows ahead of him sat Barajas and Goodrich.

Velasquez said he asked Jimenez what was in the backpack, and the defendant replied, “a strap,” or handgun. Velasquez said he and the other two friends became fearful and left, as did Jimenez, but the defendant decided to go back into the theater.

“Leaving the theater is a huge, significant fact,” Beecham said, recalling how Jimenez later told detectives he decided to return because he didn’t want to miss the last 20 minutes of the film. “He’s not in imminent fear.”

Jimenez said “voices” told him to kill the victims, each of whom he shot in the head, then went to his residence, Beecham said.

“That shows consciousness of guilt,” he said.

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