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A Look Back:

Jealousy begat local’s murder in 1886

March 07, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

A love triangle involving two fishermen and a woman whom newspapers of the time described as a “buxom Mexican maiden” ended in a bloody-hatchet murder when Newport Beach was only a tiny fishing village in 1886.

Peter Julian, who lived in a Newport Beach cabin, was known to friends as “Fisherman Pete.” He was described by the L.A. Times in an article dated May 25, 1886, as having a “powerful physique” and “warm friends by the score.”

Fisherman Pete and another fisherman, Antonia Saccohcia, both became enamored with a woman named Jessie Serey, according to an article from the Los Angeles Times.

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Although Saccohcia was madly in love with Serey and wanted to marry her, the woman favored Fisherman Pete.

One night, both men met at Serey’s house. Overcome with jealousy, Saccohcia refused to drink wine with the woman’s father and Fisherman Pete.

The next day, Fisherman Pete was found dead on his cabin floor, hacked to death with a hatchet and a razor, according to an L.A. Times article dated May 25, 1886.

When news of Fisherman Pete’s death reached John Camidona, the fisherman’s old friend, he rode by horse from San Pedro to view the body, according to a historical Los Angeles Times account.

“My God, how could man be so brutal, so heartless,” Camidona said, clasping his head in his hands, when he saw what was left of Fisherman Pete.

Sheriff Joe Nichols became suspicious of Saccohcia after he refused to shake hands with him and kept his hands in his pockets the day after the killing, according to contemporary news accounts.

Nichols made Saccohcia strip off his clothes, which the sheriff observed were suspiciously wet, as if they had recently been washed.

The sheriff found blood stains on Saccohcia’s underwear, according to an L.A. Times article dated June 9, 1886.

Saccohcia was subsequently arrested and charged with the murder of Fisherman Pete.

The public flocked to Saccohcia’s trial, outraged by the gruesome killing, according to the L.A. Times.

“The populace has been thoroughly aroused over the crime and today about the entire population of Newport Beach were present to hear testimony that would be given in the case,” a historical Los Angeles Times story states.

At the trial, Antonia Pavleich, a fisherman, testified that Saccohcia was consumed with jealousy over Fisherman Pete’s relationship with Serey, according to contemporary news accounts.

“I heard him say he was going to make Pete eat his own bowels,” Pavleich testified. “I heard him say he would love the girl, Jessie Serey, provide for her and make her mistress of his home.”

The jury deliberated for only an hour and a half before finding Saccohcia guilty of first-degree murder. They recommended the judge sentence him to life in prison.

No historical account of Saccohcia’s formal sentencing could be found.


Reporter BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at brianna.bailey@latimes.com.

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