2 men convicted in 2001 murder of McDonald’s employee in Rosamond

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Two men have been found guilty in the vicious murder of a McDonald’s employee in Rosamond in August 2001, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office said.

A jury found Cedric Sutton and Darnell Wheat guilty on multiple charges including first-degree murder with special circumstances, attempted murder and kidnapping to commit robbery.

Sutton and Wheat were convicted of killing 37-year-old Maria Cruz Pina on August 11, 2001. 

Prosecutors said Pina and another woman arrived for their day’s work at a McDonald’s in Rosamond when they were assaulted and forced into an office by Sutton and Wheat.

The District Attorney’s Office released surveillance video from inside the restaurant, showing the two men lead the two women into the back office.

Inside the office, Sutton and Wheat ordered Pina to open a safe at gunpoint, but when she couldn’t, she was shot in the head by a sawed-off shotgun, instantly killing Pina, the District Attorney’s office said.

Sutton and Wheat fled, but returned to the office to try and kill Pina’s co-worker, but a handgun malfunctioned and didn’t fire. The woman survived, Sutton and Wheat got away, but there were no leads in the case until 2012.

In 2012, Secret Witness recieved a tip implicating Sutton and Wheat in Pina’s murder. New DNA techniques were used to find their DNA in clothing found by the sheriff’s office back in 2001 along a freeway.

KCSO’s investigation then led them to Las Vegas where the murder weapons were found by police just nine days after Pina’s murder. The Las Vegas Police Department held onto the weapons for 16 years.

Sutton and Wheat were eventually arrested in September 2016 after a Kern County Grand Jury indicted them.  

Their four-month trial began in November 2018. 

The two men will be sentenced in April and face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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