Rex Krebs’ attorney to defend man accused in murder of Paso Robles woman

A San Luis Obispo attorney with experience representing defendants facing the death penalty was appointed Thursday to join the legal team representing the man accused of raping and murdering Paso Robles resident Nancy Woodrum.

William McLennan, who worked on the capital cases of notorious killer Rex Krebs and of Dystiny Myers’ murderer Ty Hill, will represent Carlo Alberto Fuentes Flores along with the San Luis Obispo County Public Defender’s Office.

Fuentes Flores, 42, accused of killing Woodrum after allegedly confessing and leading authorities to her body, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a single charge of premeditated murder.

The District Attorney’s Office in its criminal complaint filed last week also lists two special circumstances alleging Woodrum’s murder occurred during the commission of rape and residential burglary, meaning that prosecutors could request the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole at a later date, Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth said last week.

Following Thursday’s hearing, Steven Rice and Jason Dufurrena, attorneys with the San Luis Obispo County Public Defender’s Office already representing Fuentes Flores, said state law requires defense counsel to treat the case as if prosecutors are seeking the death penalty until they formally declare otherwise.

Under the law, they said, their client is entitled to request an attorney with significant experience in a case in which the death penalty is on the table.

Superior Court Judge Ginger Garrett on Thursday granted Rice and Dufurrena’s motion to appoint McLennan, who submitted a declaration stating he’s served as second or lead defense counsel in nine capital cases since being admitted to the bar in 1977.

According to McLennan’s declaration, he served as a secondary counsel in the trial for Krebs, in which he worked on trial preparation, drafting legal briefs and appellate writs, including a writ filed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Krebs, who murdered college students Rachel Newhouse and Aundria Crawford, was found guilty by a jury in 2001 and remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

Despite that verdict, McLennan has a record of representing defendants in which the accused was spared the death penalty.

In 2011, McLennan was appointed to represent Hill, one of five South San Luis Obispo County residents accused of the kidnapping, torture and murder of Santa Maria teenager Dystiny Myers.

Hill — the only defendant to face the death penalty in the case — accepted a plea deal before his trial began in 2013, agreeing to a life prison term without the possibility of parole or appeal.

McLennan also worked as an associate defense counsel in other high-profile San Luis Obispo County cases including for Terry Crothers, who bludgeoned 31-year-old Cindy Pinto to death in Paso Robles in 1994; and Peter Dirks, who was convicted in 2005 of raping and murdering Cal Poly student Mary Catherine Waterbury at Montana de Oro in 1985. The Dirks case was the first cold case solved in San Luis Obispo County using DNA evidence.

Nancy Woodrum San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office

Authorities say Fuentes Flores killed Woodrum, 62, who had been missing for seven months when her body was recovered last month in a remote spot off Highway 58.

The Sheriff’s Office says Fuentes Flores led detectives to Woodrum’s body on the same day as their first interview with him.

Neighbors last saw her alive on the afternoon of May 4, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Woodrum, a hair stylist, owned The Strand Salon in downtown Paso Robles with her daughter and had worked in the beauty industry since the late 1990s, according to a May Tribune story.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference that Woodrum and Fuentes Flores became acquainted after he did painting work on her property.

Fuentes Flores is scheduled to be back in court for pre-preliminary hearing Monday.

Tribune reporter Lindsey Holden contributed to this report.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.