ESCONDIDO — A former concert violinist accused of shooting his two roommates, killing one of them, was convicted Feb. 5 of voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder.
After nearly two days of deliberation, a panel of six men and six women found Octavian Crishan guilty of the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter for killing his longtime friend Herman Wiesemeyer. He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Matthew Vivian in the Wiesemeyer’s Escondido home on Parktree Lane on April 18, 2007. Both Vivian and Crishan rented rooms from Wiesemeyer.
As the verdicts were read, several of the jurors were visibly upset wiping tears away from their eyes. Outside the courtroom, those jurors took several minutes to compose themselves before leaving the courthouse. All of the jurors declined requests to comment on the case.
Outside the courtroom, Deputy District Attorney Paul Myers commended the jury for their dedication to the case, despite not finding Crishan guilty of first- or second-degree murder. “The jury has spoken and we’ll have to live with that,” he said.
Myers said the case was very unusual and that Crishan was “not quite like any defendant we’ve ever had in front of us.”
Throughout the two-week hearing, prosecutors alleged Crishan, a former concert violinist and Las Vegas band leader, shot Wiesemeyer, 67, at close range around midnight with a Beretta semi-automatic pistol and left his body lying on the dining room floor. When Vivian arrived home from work around 8 a.m., he immediately noticed Wiesemeyer lying on the floor and went to his aid. That is when prosecutors said Crishan came out from the shadows and shot Vivian point-blank in the face.
Vivian, a registered nurse in his mid-40s, testified he sustained a gunshot wound to the jaw. He said he was able to wrestle the gun away from Crishan and call 911. During the struggle for the weapon, Crishan allegedly tried to fire the gun at Vivian; however, the weapon misfired, Vivian said.
When police arrived around 8:45 a.m., Vivian said he exited the house with the handgun. Crishan came out three hours later, rambling and asking to be shot, according to court testimony. Police used approximately seven shots from a beanbag gun and a police dog to subdue Crishan, witnesses testified.
Crishan’s attorney, John Cotsirilos, weaved a different tale in his opening statement, telling the panel that the victims had been verbally and physically abusing Crishan since he moved into Wiesemeyer’s residence from a Las Vegas senior home in 2006.
In Crishan’s testimony, he elaborated further on the abuses to him, as well as on the immediate fear he felt, which caused him to act in self-defense when he shot both men. He said Wiesemeyer’s threats increased when he found out Crishan wanted to leave the house. Crishan had been paying $1,800 a month for his room, food and care to Wiesemeyer, who he said was a heavy drinker and gambler. On the night of the shooting, Crishan said Wiesemeyer armed himself with a rifle and knife in an attempt to extort more than $20,000 from him.
As for Vivian, Crishan said he threatened to poison him with potassium chloride, a chemical used in lethal injections. And when Vivian came home that April morning, he charged at Crishan after seeing Wiesemeyer lying on the floor and the elderly musician holding a firearm.
Dr. Erin Bigler, director of neuropsychology at Brigham Young University, testified Crishan may have been delusional and suffering from paranoia largely due to two strokes that damaged the right hemisphere of his brain several years ago.
A March 20 sentencing was scheduled, at which time Crishan faces seven years to life in prison, Myers said.