Marco Casillas is behind bars for murdering a 16-year-old boy, Jake Bush, during a home invasion in Ventura, California.
On the morning of June 24, 1997, Jake and his mother, Gail Shirley, left their home in the 1900 block of Swift Avenue and went to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
While there, Jake passed a written exam and acquired his learner’s permit, which would allow him to drive.
Afterward, Jake and Shirley went to their local discount store and purchased plumbing fixtures, as they had planned to fix up his bathroom over the summer break.
When they returned home to the Montalvo neighborhood shortly before noon, they realized someone had broken into their house.
The Los Angeles Times reported that “the screen on Jake’s bedroom window had been pried off, and his television had been moved about two feet.”
Shirley, who at the time was a teacher at Balboa Middle School, immediately dialed 911.
As she was on the phone, a dispatcher asked if the burglar was still inside the house. That’s when the mother and son split up and began searching the house.
Shirley checked the front of the house, while Jake searched the back.
While Jake was searching, he came face-to-face with the intruder in the den, and it was there that he was stabbed multiple times in the neck, arm, and ribs.
The struggle was quick and quiet, according to a report, which is why Shirley wasn’t immediately aware of what had transpired.
It wasn’t until Jake staggered out of the den and crumbled onto the floor, uttering his last words, “Oh God, I’ve been stabbed,” that she knew something was amiss.
“We had been in there four or five minutes. We had no idea anybody was in there,” Shirley said. “I got him rolled over, and he started to slip away. I had a pretty good idea that my kid was in trouble.”
Shirley began applying pressure to the wounds, all while on the phone with 911. By the time emergency responders arrived on the scene, she was performing CPR on her son.
Jake was subsequently transported to the Ventura County Medical Center, where he died three hours later while undergoing surgery.
“I was trying to save my baby,” Shirley said. “I am not in denial, nor do I have any delusions about what happened to us yesterday.”
“My son was taken from me. He was the center of my universe, my one and only. No family anywhere ever, ever deserves this kind of tragedy.”
Jake had just finished his junior year at Buena High School, where he was co-captain of the varsity track squad. He was also employed at the local movie theater.
Relatives said he was looking forward to his senior year, and he was thinking about going to college.
The intruder who fatally stabbed Jake had run out of the house through the front door.
A witness, who was 11 years old at the time, testified that she and her friend were standing in the street when they noticed a man running out of the house.
“I saw him running out the door and behind him was a shiny-looking mirror and he had something shiny in his hand,” the witness said.
“He was holding it waist-high on his body, pointing down. I just continued to watch him run.”
Before he disappeared, the witness said she saw him shove a shiny knife into his pants.
Investigators said that a long, serrated knife was found several blocks away in a driveway, but it only contained Jake’s DNA.
Based on the description of the suspect, which was provided by the witness, a composite sketch was created and released to the public.
However, Jake Bush’s murder went unsolved for nearly two decades until 2014, when DNA from Marco Casillas, which was found in the FBI’s national criminal database, matched the DNA found at the crime scene.
On March 19, 2014, the palm print found on Jake’s bedroom windowsill matched Casillas.
In April of that same year, investigators uncovered that the DNA extracted from feces that were found inside a laundry basket was also a match.
In July 2014, Casillas, 39, of Port Hueneme, was charged with Jake’s murder, but he was already incarcerated at the Ventura County Jail, according to ABC 7.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Day said, “At the time (in 1997), palm prints were not available in the fingerprint database, and it took years before the database started collecting and entering palm prints.”
“We also could not extract DNA from (the feces) because the process was not developed yet.”
Police officials released the following statement: “The family is relieved and grateful that their son’s killer has been apprehended, and they are anxious to cooperate and assist the prosecution in seeking justice for Jake.”
In February 2017, a jury at Ventura County Superior Court deliberated for six hours before finding Marco Casillas guilty of the first-degree murder of Jake Bush.
He was sentenced to life in prison the following month.