2005-05-20 / Front Page

Actor pleads guilty to 2004 murder

By Michelle Knight

By Michelle Knight knight@theacorn.com

Robert Sorrells, 75, a prolific TV and film actor during the 1960s, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Monday, authorities said.

On July 24, 2004 around 5 p.m., Sorrells returned to the Regency Lounge at 1639 Los Angeles Ave. and shot to death Arthur DeLong at point-blank range. He then shot Edward Sanchez, who was sitting on a nearby stool. As Sorrells walked out of the bar he fired again at both men as they lay on the floor.

DeLong died almost instantly. Sanchez still suffers from the damage done by one of the bullets, which nicked his spine, said Chris Harman, deputy district attorney.

Sorrells had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but on Monday changed his plea to guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder.

Public Defender Joe Villasana said his client changed his plea because he "felt a great deal of remorse for what he’d done, and he would like to make amends to the degree possible."

Prior to the shooting, Sorrells had been despondent and depressed over the death of his mother and beloved pet dog, Villasana said.

Harman said none of the doctors who examined Sorrells found he was legally insane.

On the day of the shooting, Sorrells had been escorted from the bar an hour earlier. Authorities said he mulled over what he considered ill treatment, went home to get his gun and came back to the bar, where he shot DeLong and Sanchez. Sanchez, however, had arrived at the bar only a few minutes before Sorrells’ return and had nothing to do with the earlier confrontation, Harman said.

Sorrells was a veteran TV actor, having appeared in a long list of 1960s shows, most notably "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza" and "Rawhide." He also acted in several films, including "The Bad News Bears Go to Japan" and "Bound for Glory." More recently, in the 1980s, he appeared in "Fletch" and "Nowhere to Run."

Sorrells, who before his arrest had lived in a low-income senior housing complex in Simi Valley, is expected to be sentenced to 40 years to life on July 13 in Ventura County Superior Court.

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