A jury on Wednesday rejected a San Luis Obispo man's defense that he bludgeoned his roommate to death with a baseball bat in 2015 out of self defense — that he feared for his life because the man was drunk and violent.
Charles Chad Giese, 42, was convicted of the first-degree, premeditated murder of Walter Ernest Vallivero, 54, and two additional criminal sentencing enhancements for use of a deadly weapon. The jury took a little more than a day to deliberate.
Giese is scheduled to be sentenced July 12, when he's expected to receive 27 years to life in prison.
He was accused of beating Vallivero to death with a rock, bottle and bat Nov. 16, 2015, following an argument over Giese's pending eviction from the manufactured home the two shared. Vallivero owned the house on Rancho Oaks Drive, a community of about a dozen homes on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo.
During the trial, which began May 15, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle argued that Giese was a problem roommate who drank excessively, made neighbors uncomfortable and who dragged an eviction process out for months.
Peuvrelle argued that there was no "fight" between the two, but rather that Giese attacked Vallivero, beating him with several objects, trying to stab him with a kitchen knife and finally dragging Vallivero's body to a bathtub where he attempted to dismember him before abandoning the idea and turning himself in.
"A person who honestly believes he was justified (in killing in self defense) doesn't do that," Peuvrelle said.
A forensic pathologist hired by the DA's Office to review the county's former medical examiner's reports and testify about them told the jury that Vallivero's cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head. Specifically, Dr. Joseph Cohen said Vallivero suffered lacerations to his brain from several "eggshell fractures" to the skull that came from at least four strikes from a blunt object.
Vallivero's skull looked like it could be from someone who leaped from a 200-foot building, Cohen testified.
A clear motive for the murder, however, was never explained in court.
After the prosecution rested its case Friday, Giese's attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, called back to the stand just two of the prosecution's witnesses and didn't call any of his own experts in the two hours before resting his case. Giese did not testify.
Funke-Bilu reminded jurors in his closing argument of the medical examiner's findings that Vallivero had a blood-alcohol content of 0.22, nearly three times the legal limit to drive, when his body was examined after his murder.
He also recounted previous neighbor testimony that the two roommates' relationship grew increasingly strained over the nine weeks that Giese lived at the house, with some testifying that it was often Vallivero heard shouting and cursing at Giese.
Witnesses testified that there were several firearms in the house, and the two had previously gotten into a physical fight after Vallivero allegedly pulled a realistic-looking BB handgun on Giese. Even though Vallivero received injuries requiring a brief hospitalization after that September 2015 incident, witnesses testified that he was considered the aggressor in the incident and San Luis Obispo police had recommended a criminal charge to the DA's Office.
District Attorney Dan Dow thanked the jury in a statement following the verdict and expressed his wishes that it provide solace to Vallivero's family and friends.
Funke-Bilu also expressed his appreciation to jurors for their cooperation and attention throughout often graphic testimony, though he said he disagreed with its findings.
The jury was not polled and the foreperson could not be reached for comment.
Monica Boyd, Vallivero’s sister, previously told The Tribune that her brother had told her over the phone of troubles with Giese, but never gave an indication things were getting violent.
Boyd said in an email late Wednesday she wished she had known of the situation.
“My only regret is that Wally did not reveal the hell he was going through with this guy,” Boyd wrote. “I think he felt ashamed and didn’t want to worry me.”
Boyd said she was “completely satisfied” with the verdict and praised the District Attorney’s Office for their work and for keeping her in the loop from her home in New Zealand.
“I cannot thank the DA’s Office enough for the work they have put in to get this result,” she said.