Jimenez Declared Sane During Corona Theater Murders 

Connor Forbes
Connor Forbes
7 Min Read

Corona Theater Murders 


City News Service

RIVERSIDE – A 23-year-old schizophrenic and chronic marijuana user Tuesday was found sane when he fatally shot a young man and woman as they watched a movie at a Corona theater.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst summarily announced his ruling after the defense and prosecution concluded closing statements in the roughly two-week sanity bench trial for Joseph Jimenez, during which only Hollenhorst heard evidence.

Jimenez admitted the first-degree murders but had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Hollenhorst scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 26 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

The defendant, who is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“These were the acts of a young man who is mentally deranged,” defense attorney Charles Kenyon said in his closing argument. “Joseph is a person with cognitive impairment.”

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

“Joseph cannot discern right and wrong,” Kenyon said. “He doesn’t recognize things in real time. There are things highlighted in his brain that aren’t there. He’s hearing ghosts.”

Kenyon acknowledged Jimenez had appeared normal throughout the 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.

He assaulted his father on two separate occasions, and in the last attack, on Dec. 29, 2020, he attempted to choke him to death, according to the defense.

“He suffered paranoia, thinking he was being watched and chased by people in Hondas and Subarus,” Kenyon said. “This is a person who is literally insane. He thinks he is going to die. All of his delusions were 100% schizophrenia.”

The week prior to the theater shooting, his father went to Mexico, leaving Jimenez alone in a mobile home, “without real world distractions, in his head, hopped up on energy drinks because he can’t sleep and voices in his head telling him to do things.”

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

“He could not understand the moral wrongness of his act,” Kenyon said.

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.”

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.”

“You can take all of his statements and throw them in the trash,” the prosecutor told the judge.

Beecham pointed to videos of him 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.

“He paid $1,000 for it. He has to get a ghost gun because he knows he’s not going to pass a background check,” Beecham said.

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 “sprinted to his car” and fled to his residence, Beecham said.

“That shows consciousness of guilt,” he said.

Corona Theater Murders. Rylee Goodrich
Corona Theater Murders. Anthony Barajas

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