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Orange County DA seeks to wrestle away cold-case murder from DA George Gascon in LA

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitizer has filed a brief seeking to take over the prosecution from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón of a violent predator charged with the 1981 kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old Anaheim Hills boy.

Kenneth Kasten Rasmuson after his arrest in Idaho in 2015. (Bonner County Jail via Orange County Register)

Kenneth Kasten Rasmuson, 53, of Sandpoint, Idaho, remains in jail in connection with the slaying of Jeffrey Vargo, but Gascon’s newly imposed directives have forced prosecutors in his office to move to dismiss special circumstances and enhancements.

Rasmuson was charged late last week by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office with one felony count of murder and two special circumstances — murder during the course of a kidnapping and murder during a lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14.

Those charges would make Rasmuson eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

In Los Angeles County, he is charged with the murders of Jeffrey and another 6-year-old boy who was killed in Agoura Hills in 1986. Although Rasmuson was charged with special circumstances enhancements under previous L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Gascon has moved to dismiss those allegations.

Rasmuson’s lengthy criminal history includes convictions for sexually assaulting two other Southern California boys in 1981 and 1987.

“Jeffrey’s family will have justice,”  Spitzer said in a statement. “I refuse to allow the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s ‘one-size fits all’ approach to prevent the family of a 6-year-old murdered child from achieving the justice that they deserve. His crimes are the stuff of parents’ nightmares and I will do everything in my power to ensure that this pedophile is held accountable for his crimes and is off the streets for the rest of his life. We will not take any chance of having this sexually violent predator come in contact with one more child.

“If George Gascon refuses to follow the law in prosecuting a pedophile murderer, I will.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Photos of Jeffrey Vargo are shown with newspaper clippings about his 1981 kidnapping and murder. Jeffrey’s accused killer, Kenneth Rasmuson, was arrested in 2015 and hasn’t yet gone to trial. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

On July 2, 1981, Jeffrey was riding his bike near his Anaheim Hills home when Rasmuson allegedly abducted him. The boy’s body was found the next day about 25 miles away at a construction site in Pomona’s Phillips Ranch neighborhood, but it wasn’t until 2015 that DNA would lead to Rasmuson’s arrest.

Jeffrey’s parents, Bob and Connie Vargo, said in a statement they are pleased Spitzer is interested in taking the case over. “We agreed moving to Orange County would speed up the process, and Rasmuson would receive the punishment he deserves,” they said. “Life without parole or death.”

Since taking office in December, Gascón has imposed sweeping social justice changes that have roiled his own deputy district attorneys and angered families of crime victims.

Among Gascón’s most controversial policies are directives prohibiting prosecutors from seeking the death penalty and forbidding them from filing special circumstances allegations that could result in a life sentence without the possibility of parole or the death penalty

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday that Spitzer’s decision to file the amicus brief and charges against Rasmussen was prompted by a Southern California News Group report last month detailing the fears of Jeffrey’s parents that Rasmuson might be paroled one day if convicted.

Connie and Bob Vargo at their home in Anaheim Hills are shown with a photo of their 6-year-old son, Jeffrey Vargo, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. Jeffrey’s accused killer, Kenneth Rasmuson, was arrested in 2015 and hasn’t yet gone to trial. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

In an interview with SCNG at the time, Connie Vargo, 73, expressed outrage because Gascon “doesn’t want the death penalty and doesn’t want life in prison without parole. If Rasmuson gets credit for the time already served in jail, he could be out in maybe 15 years. I know he is never going to be executed, at least not in my lifetime. I would be happy if he went to prison for the rest of his miserable life and rotted there.”

Edds said Spitzer stands ready to achieve justice for Jeffrey and his family if Gascon refuses to do so.

During a hearing Monday, Feb. 22, in Pomona, Spitzer will argue against Gascon’s move to dismiss the special circumstances allegations in Los Angeles County’s prosecution of Rasmuson.

Source: Orange County Register

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