SANTA ANA (CNS) — A 73-year-old Dana Point man pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter for the 1994 beating death of his mother in Corona del Mar and was immediately sentenced to three years behind bars, or time he has already served awaiting trial.
John Henry Van Uden III was given credit for 1,510 days behind bars with good behavior and could be released soon.
Van Uden was charged two years ago with murder and a special circumstance allegation of killing for financial gain. Had he gone to trial and been convicted as charged, he would have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Van Uden’s 76-year-old mother, Frances M. Van Uden, was found dead in the living room of her Corona del Mar home on Keel Drive on March 5, 1994. Anxious neighbors called police because they had not seen the widow in two days, and the family had offered a $50,000 reward for the capture of her killer.
A couple of retired detectives from Long Beach were the latest to take a crack at the case and they turned up new clues, resulting in Van Uden’s arrest at Dana Point Harbor on Nov. 2, 2017. The Newport Beach City Council coughed up money to pay the investigators.
“We have never forgotten what happened in March of 1994,” Newport Beach police Chief Jon Lewis said after Van Uden’s arrest, telling reporters that he had been a “strong suspect” from the beginning.
Van Uden’s attorney, Mick Hill of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, filed a motion Nov. 7 arguing that his client could not receive a fair trial and had been denied his rights to a speedy trial. Hill maintained that Newport Beach police failed to investigate clues that could have exonerated his client and harassed his alibi witness and her son for years.
Hill — who did not join with his client in the plea — alleged that Newport Beach police “used numerous acts of dishonesty to try to build a case against Mr. Van Uden and ignored or failed to gather evidence that supported the defendant’s innocence.”