Following a 2 1/2-hour deliberation, a jury in Sacramento, Calif., has convicted a man of first degree murder in the 2010 strangulation of Galen Joseph May, a popular assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and a well-known figure at Northern California racetracks.
Juan Carlos Orozco, 24, was found guilty March 19 of the murder of May, and special circumstances of torture, robbery, and burglary were found to be true. May, 69, was killed Aug. 26, 2010, in his apartment in the Sacramento suburban community of Antelope. Orozco, who was living at the time in the apartment directly below May's residence, was arrested a week later and has been in custody since.
Orozco is due back in court April 19 for sentencing before Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall, when he will likely receive life in prison without possibility of parole, according to Hilary Bagley Franzoia, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.
May, divorced at the time of his death with two grown children, worked in the receiving barns at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows for 31 years before retiring in 2003. Upon retirement, May became an assistant to Hollendorfer, serving as the prominent trainer’s head traveling man.
He accompanied Hollendorfer’s horses to major races such as the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Among the Derby starters he took to Churchill Downs were Eye of the Tiger, Bwana Bull, and Chocolate Candy. He took care of champion 3-year-old filly Blind Luck when she was at Churchill Downs to prepare for her victory in the 2010 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
"I don't know really what to say, other than I miss Galen. He was a friend of mine for years before he went to work for me," said Hollendorfer, who called him an indespensible part of his team. "Everyone who knew him misses him greatly."
Authorities testified during the trial that Orozco pushed his way into May's apartment at about 1 a.m., punched the victim repeatedly in the face, and bound him up with phone and electrical cords. He then proceeded to poke May in the face, neck, and chest 22 times with a flat-head screwdriver, Franzoia said, in what was believed to be an attempt to force May to give him the security code for May's ATM card. After later asphyxiating May with two plastic bags and the victim's belt, Orozco fled the scene with May's 1999 black Toyota Solara.
Orozco, who was kicked out of his girlfriend's apartment earlier in the evening, was later linked to the murder scene by his fingerprints on the plastic bags, and DNA on the cord bindings and May's belt that were consistent with Orozco's profile.
The defendant took the stand near the end of the trial, testifying that he found May's car keys in the apartment complex's parking lot and attempted to return them to him when he found the body of the deceased. He said he then took the car and May's wallet.
Orozco was identified after surveillance video of him with the victim’s vehicle was recovered from a Hayward, Calif., gas station, according to evidence presented. Detectives returned to May’s apartment complex with the suspect’s photo and were able to identify him through his girlfriend. He was later arrested at a relative's residence in Delano, Calif., about 250 miles south of Sacramento.