Overview of Katrina Montgomery
Katrina Montgomery, known as Trina to family and friends, was the oldest of three children. She was a headstrong, pretty redhead who attended Santa Monica College and dreamed of becoming a professional photographer. Katrina worked as a waitress at Jerry’s Famous Deli, near her parents’ home in Los Angeles. Katrina was 20 years old.
Katrina met Justin Merriman through her ex-boyfriend, Mitch Sutton, who was a member of a Ventura skinhead gang. Katrina dated Sutton between 1989 and 1992. When Sutton enlisted in the military, Katrina moved with him to Germany for eight months.
They broke up in 1992, and Katrina began corresponding with Justin Merriman, who was incarcerated in various juvenile detention facilities and state prisons. Over time, Merriman began asking for sexually explicit photos from Katrina. Katrina said she wanted to get back together with Sutton, but it was ‘expected’ that she be with Merriman when he was released from prison. Katrina’s close friends knew that she did not want to be involved with Merriman. Shortly after Merriman was released from prison, there was an incident where Merriman forced himself on Katrina.
Thanksgiving Weekend - 1992
On Thursday, November 26, 1992, Katrina spent Thanksgiving with her family in Los Angeles, California. She had tentative plans to see her family again in Santa Barbara on November 28th but never arrived. On Saturday, November 28, 1992, Katrina attended a house party at Scott Porcho’s home, located in the 1200 block of Azalea Street in Oxnard. Scott was a founding member of the Skin Head Dogs (SHD) gang, a white supremacy gang known to be active throughout Ventura, California.
Katrina Montgomery was last seen during the early morning hours of November 28, 1992. She had attended a party at the Porcho home on Friday, November 26, 1992. Katrina was invited to spend the night and brought an overnight bag along with her purse. According to court documents, Katrina who was already intoxicated, drove to the party and was one of the first to arrive. An estimated 15-30 gang members attended the party, some were members of the Skin Head Dogs, while some were part of the Slymer Peckerwood Family gang. Many were drinking, some were using LSD and marijuana and a few fights broke out among the partygoers. Court documents state that Merriman and Katrina were seen together throughout the evening, but the exact nature of their ‘relationship’ remains unclear. Merriman and Katrina were seen wrestling in one of the bedrooms, and Merriman tried to kiss her. Katrina told him to stop, became angry and started yelling. Porcho saw Katrina lying on the bed clutching her stomach as if she had been punched. Merriman and other gang members were standing around Katrina. Apryl took Katrina’s keys because she was too intoxicated to drive. Porcho and Merriman exchanged words about the altercation. Apryl left the party to drive an unknown partygoer home. Merriman and Porcho continued their argument about the incident in the bedroom.
By 2:00 AM, most of the guests had left the party. At some point, 16-year-old, Larry Nicassio, a member of the white supremacy gang known as the Sylmar Peckerwood Family, witnessed Merriman say that he wanted to ‘get’ Katrina as he began to taunt her with a steak knife. Merriman told Nicassio “We’re gonna get that bitch, you're gonna do it.” Nicassio assumed that Merriman was joking. Nicassio’s cousin, Ryan Bush also witnessed this interaction between Merriman and Katrina. Porcho in an attempt to break up the commotion, hits Merriman with a 40-ounce beer bottle and the fight stops.
In the midst of the chaos, Apryl arrived home and demanded that Merriman, Nicassio and Bush go home. Apryl told Katrina to stay overnight with them. A short time later, Merriman called Katrina, and Apryl hung up the phone. This upset Katrina, and she accuses Apryl and Porcho of trying to run her life. The argument lasted for approximately 30 minutes, and ultimately Katrina demands her keys and Apryl reluctantly gives them to her. They assumed that Katina would return to her home in Los Angeles, but she decided to go to Merriman’s home instead.
Katrina arrived at Merriman’s home and she wants to go to bed. Merriman forces her to have sex with him. Nicassio and Bush were in the room, and that made Katrina uncomfortable, but Merriman didn’t care. Court records state that Nicassio and Bush could tell that Merriman was hurting Katrina, and that she wanted him to stop. She didn’t want to get pregnant, but Merriman became angry and violent. Katrina got up to go to the bathroom and Merriman stabbed her in the neck. Merriman proceeded to attack her, covering her in a blanket before grabbing a wrench and hitting her in the head. Merriman slit her throat, but she did not die immediately. she was still alive. Nicassio suggested they seek medical attention, but Merriman was concerned she would rat on him about the incident.
Hiding Her Body
Justin Merriman was living with his mother at this time. She witnessed Bush and Merriman bring Katrina’s body into the truck but promised she wouldn’t say anything. Between Merriman, Bush and Nicassio, they devised a plan to dispose of Katrina’s body and her car. Merriman and Bush carried her body to Katrina’s truck. Merriman and Nicassio drove Katrina’s truck while Bush rode in another gang member’s car. They drove to Sunset Farms, dragged her body into a drainage pipe and covered her with garbage and tumbleweeds. Next, they drove to Angeles Crest National Forest to dispose of Katrina’s truck off a remote dirt road. Per court records, Nicassio claimed he never touched her body. On November 30, 1992, Bush and Nicassio returned to where she was buried and moved her body approximately 5 feet from its original location.
The Investigation Begins
On November 28, 1992, Katrina’s dark blue 1986 Toyota Pickup truck was found over an embankment in the Angeles Crest Forrest by the La Crescenta Sheriff’s Office. The truck was off the road on a dirt turnout, Bush tried to roll her car but was unsuccessful. Blood was found on the truck bed and tailgate area. There was no sign of Katrina's personal effects inside the car. Police later determined that the blood found inside Katrina's car could not be positively identified, but the analysis showed that it was the blood of a biological child belonging to Katrina's parents.
At approximately 7:00 p.m., Katrina’s mother received a call from Scott Porcho asking if Katrina was there. Kathryn informed Porcho about the calls from police, and Porcho told Kathryn he hadn't seen Katrina for several months. Kathryn later called Scott's wife, Apryl, who also informed Kathryn that she hasn't spoken to Katrina in a few months. Kathryn proceeded to call around to Katrina’s other friends, and it is eventually revealed that Katrina was with the Porcho’s on Friday night. Scott’s wife, Apryl, told Kathryn that she lied because they didn’t want Kathryn to think they “did anything bad” to Katrina. Kathryn called her sister to confirm if Katrina arrived in Santa Barbara, as the family had plans to see each other. But she confirms that her niece, Katrina never showed up. it is confirmed that she never showed up. Police were quick to assume foul play.
People Vrs. Merriman
In July 1997, the District Attorney decided to investigate the case full-time. By November of that same year, Ryan Bush and Larry Nicassio were arrested on suspicion of murder. Bush was later charged with a drug offense and Nicassio was charged with murder in connection to Katrina's case.
In January 1996, Justin Merriman was indicted on multiple charges including murder, rape and evading arrest. He was also charged with two unrelated rape charges from the mid-90s.
Bush originally declined to agree with the investigation but quickly changed his mind. Nicassio ultimately agrees to cooperate with the police, signs a plea deal leads them to where Katrina’s body is buried. However, when authorities arrived to search the location, they were unable to locate the remains because the land had been developed. Alternatively, Nicassio agrees to wear a wire while speaking with Merriman.
Where the case stands today.
In 2001, Justin Merriman was found guilty of Katrina’s murder. He is currently serving a death sentence. Merriman’s mother, 53-year-old Beverlee Sue Merriman, fought the charges but ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy. Katrina’s remains have never been discovered. Her case is considered a “no-body homicide”, meaning the prosecution was forced to rely on circumstantial evidence.