[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., ORE., TENN., WASH., MONT.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Aug 17 17:39:13 CDT 2011
Judge sends Ricardo Villa to death row for 1993 Hueneme slaying
Ricardo Villa told a judge today that he never killed an elderly Port Hueneme
woman 18 years ago — that the jury made a mistake in finding him guilty of
1st-degree murder — but the judge still sent him to death row.
"I did not kill. I did not commit the crime," Villa said in an anxious voice.
"I never even thought of doing that."
After denying Villa's motions for a new trial and to strike the death penalty
and listening to pleas from lawyers to spare his life, Ventura County Superior
Court Judge Kevin McGee reaffirmed the jury's recommendation for death.
"You shall be put to death in a manner described by law," the judge told the
36-year-old Port Hueneme man.
Villa sat straight up and looked at the judge as he read his decision after
considering the evidence against Villa and other factors in his case.
According to court testimony, Villa entered Beatrice Bellis' third-floor
apartment at the Mar Vista senior project in Port Hueneme through her unlocked
front door as the 87-year-old woman slept in her bedroom on June 27, 1993.
Villa, a janitor at the apartment complex, later used three kitchen knives to
repeatedly stab Bellis.
McGee said Villa brutally raped an elderly person who lived alone and was among
the most vulnerable members of the community. He said Villa "savagely and
viciously" attacked Bellis, who had been deaf since childhood, while she was in
bed. He stabbed her 27 times as she tried to defend herself and killed her to
prevent her from identifying him. The attack was so severe that the tip of a
knife broke off in her skull. Villa raped Bellis as she bled to death in bed,
The judge also noted Villa attacked 3 women after Bellis' murder, including a
15-year-old girlfriend when Villa was 21. Police finally arrested Villa in 2004
after DNA evidence linked him to hairs found at the crime scene.
Jurors in April found Villa guilty of first-degree murder. Jurors also found
true that he used a knife during the murder and that the killing occurred
during the commission of a burglary and rape.
Villa's lawyers, Monique Hill and Willard Wiksell, pleaded with the judge to
sentence him to life in prison without parole, pointing out he had a "uniquely
strange" and "bizarre" upbringing. They said Villa raised a much younger
sister, his mother had mental problems and he was forced to be a man at 13 or
14 years old.
"His mother walks around talking to a doll, and the doll talks to other
people," Wiksell told the judge.
Wiksell said Villa has always maintained that he didn't commit the slaying.
"It was terrible. It was wrong, but he didn't do it," said Wiksell.
He said Villa hasn't caused any problems in county jail since his arrest seven
years ago, calling him "as close to a model prisoner as you can be without a
hiccup or 2."
Villa told the judge the DNA evidence used to convict him was unreliable. He
said he never carried a knife.
Villa said God had appointed McGee to the bench. He said "God bless you" to the
judge, turned to the victim's family and blessed them, too.
Prosecutor Bill Haney urged the judge to follow the jury's recommendation,
saying Villa earned a trip to death row because of the cruel, sadistic and
horrible crime he committed. Haney said Villa showed no mercy for his elderly
Haney credited former Port Hueneme detective Dennis Fitzgerald for never giving
up on the case. Fitzgerald convinced the Ventura County Sheriff's Department
crime lab to run DNA tests using new advances in technology.
In an interview, Fitzgerald said he decided to doggedly pursue the case after
he went to the crime scene, looked at the body and said, "Whoever did this
horrible crime needs to found."
"And I got lucky. I got results."
Villa will be sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison, where he will wait
for the outcome of an automatic appeal.
Ventura County inmates on death row
Ventura County death row list
- Ricardo Villa — Convicted in April 2011 for the 1993 slaying and rape of an
87-year-old Port Hueneme woman, Beatrice Bellis.
- Randolph "Randy" Kling — Sentenced in February 2010 for the 2003 murder of
Michael Budfuloski, 31, of Simi Valley, 5 months after Kling murdered the
victim's father, businessman William "Bill" Budfuloski, 53, of Simi Valley.
- Douglas Dworak — Convicted in April 2005 of murdering and raping Crystal
Hamilton, 18, of Oxnard. Hamilton's naked body was found floating along the
shore of Mussel Shoals in 2001.
- Vincent Sanchez — Convicted in 2003 of shooting Moorpark College student
Megan Barroso, 20, kidnapping her from her car, attempting to rape her, then
leaving her to die in 2001.
- Michael Schultz — Raped and strangled Cynthia Burger, 44, in 1993 in her Port
Hueneme condo. Schultz was convicted in 2003.
- Cora Caro — Shot and killed her 3 Santa Rosa Valley sons in 1999. She was
convicted in 2001.
- Justin Merriman — Raped and slit the throat of Katrina Montgomery, 20, of Los
Angeles in his Ventura bedroom in 1992 and convicted in 2001.
- Kenneth McKinzie — Beat and strangled Ruth Avril, 73, of Oxnard in 1996, then
stole her Christmas presents and gave them to his children. He was convicted in
- Spencer Brasure — Convicted in 1998 of the 1996 torture killing of Anthony
Guest of Redondo Beach. Guest was tortured with electricity, then burned to
death in a remote Ventura County campground near Gorman.
- Michael Raymond Johnson — Shot and killed Ventura County Sheriff's Deputy
Peter Aguirre in 1996 and convicted in 1998. Deputies had responded to a
domestic abuse call at the Meiners Oaks home of Johnson's common-law wife.
- Mark Scott Thornton — Convicted in 1994 of the 1993 kidnapping and slaying of
Westlake Village nurse Kellie O'Sullivan.
- Christopher Sattiewhite — Raped, kidnapped and murdered Genoveva Gonzales of
Oxnard in 1992 and convicted in 1994.
- Gregory Scott Smith — Kidnapped, sexually assaulted and strangled Paul
Bailly, 8, of Northridge in 1990 and convicted in 1992.
- Tracy Dearl Cain — Convicted in 1988 of beating William Galloway, 63, of
Oxnard to death with a rocking chair and Galloway's wife, Modena, 55, with his
bare fists in 1986.
- Curtis Lynn Fauber — Broke into the home of Thomas Urell, 52, of Oxnard and
robbed and murdered him in 1986. He was convicted that same year.
-Michael Morales — A Stockton man convicted in 1983 of raping and killing a
17-year-old Lodi girl in 1981. He was tried in Ventura County because of
extensive pretrial publicity in Stockton.
(source for both: Ventura County Star)
Death sentence for man in elderly stabbing
The former janitor of a California home for seniors has been sentenced to death
for raping an elderly resident before using three kitchen knives to kill her.
The Ventura County Star says 36-year-old Ricardo Villa was convicted of
1st-degree murder for the death of an 87-year-old Port Hueneme woman nearly 2
decades ago. A judge on Tuesday reaffirmed a jury's death penalty
Prosecutors say Villa entered the woman's third-floor apartment at the Mar
Vista senior project through her unlocked front door on June 27, 1993. Villa, a
janitor at the apartment complex, raped the woman and stabbed her 27 times.
Villa was arrested in 2004 after DNA evidence linked him to hairs found at the
(source: Associated Press)
NINJA PROWLER: Death sentence upheld
The California Supreme Court has upheld the 1998 death sentence for a man who
terrorized Moreno Valley and a Riverside neighborhood nearly 20 years ago with
a series of assaults by a masked assailant called "the ninja prowler."
David Lynn Scott III, 40 , formerly of Moreno Valley, was sentenced to death
for the 1992 murder of Riverside librarian Brenda Gail Kenny, 38, who he also
raped during a burglary of her apartment.
In all, Scott was convicted of 15 counts involving 6 incidents in Riverside's
Canyon Crest neighborhood and Moreno Valley from September of 1992 until his
arrest in January 1993.
Survivors described a masked attacker dressed in dark clothing like a ninja and
carrying a pistol and 2 swords.
A search warrant investigation of a garage used by Scott produced ninja
paraphernalia reported by one or more of the victims, including split-toed
booties, darts, and black gloves with gray duct tape on the fingers, the court
noted in its opinion. Police also recovered a sword and a .45-caliber
Scott's convictions included 2 separate rape attacks on women in Riverside and
Moreno Valley, and the attempted murder of a man Scott stabbed when the victim
defended his girlfriend from an attack
He was convicted of another attempted murder when he fired a shot from the .45
that narrowly missed a second man who was trying to aid the stabbing victim.
The state high court upheld Scott's death penalty 7-0 in a decision issued Aug.
Among the arguments the panel rejected was Scott's assertion that his right to
remain silent was violated while being interviewed by Riverside police.
The court concluded after reviewing a recording of the interview that after
Scott repeatedly refused to discuss one of the rapes, he answers a question
about his age.
"As soon as the subject was changed, defendant readily continued to respond to
questions," the court noted. "Such conduct is completely inconsistent with his
belated claim that he wanted to end the interview. At no time did defendant
decline to speak, ask to end the interview, or seek counsel.
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State does practice lethal injection to prepare for possible execution of death
row inmate Gary Haugen
State corrections officials Tuesday conducted a practice run of a lethal
injection at the Oregon State Penitentiary to prepare for the possible
execution of death row inmate Gary Haugen.
It occurred on the same day Haugen originally was scheduled to die, but the
execution was canceled in June after the state Supreme Court told a judge to
first order a mental competency evaluation for Haugen, who wants to waive his
A hearing is now scheduled Sept. 27, when the judge could reissue a death
warrant with a new execution date.
The run-through helps train staff and ensure that they can carry out the
execution professionally, said Jeanine Hohn, spokeswoman for the Department of
Corrections. The staff also wants to be prepared for security needs both inside
and outside the prison in Salem, where protesters may gather during a real
execution, she said.
A staff member was to stand in for Haugen, she said.
Haugen said no one told him ahead of time about the practice run. No one
contacted his attorneys or asked them to attend the drill so they could observe
and identify problems or issues, he said in a telephone call tonight. A
spiritual adviser had not come to his cell as is the procedure, he said.
The Oregonian’s continuing coverage of Gary Haugen, an Oregon death row
prisoner, who wants to initiate the execution process.Earlier in the day, a
corrections employee threw a notched belt at him, telling him to measure his
neck, arms, wrists, ankles and legs, but offered no explanation, he said. The
reason, Haugen guessed, was for preparing the straps that will hold him down
for the lethal injection.
"Where's the dignity in that?" he said. Prison officials did not following
through on their pledges to handle the execution process with respect, he said.
"It needs to be done in not only an ethical way but in a moral and dignified
manner," he said.
Haugen has not changed his mind about wanting to go through with the execution,
and he said he wants corrections officials to practice to avoid making any
mistakes. "At the same time, I want them to be accountable," he said.
Officials decided to go ahead with the run-through because they already were
gearing up for the execution, Hohn said, and could use the block of time and
resources set up for the Aug. 16 date as a practice.
"I think mentally and emotionally people had been thinking this would be the
day for an execution, so we felt this would be a good time to run through the
practice," she said.
(source: The Oregonian)
Federal appeals court denies appeal of Tennessee death row inmate in 1986
A federal appeals court has upheld the death penalty sentence for one of
Tennessee's most well-known inmates, Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, who was convicted in
a 1986 stabbing death of a drug dealer in Nashville.
In a 2-1 decision by a panel of judges, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a
majority opinion filed Wednesday denied Abdur'Rahman's claims that prosecutors
withheld evidence that could have convinced jurors to give him a life sentence
instead of the death penalty.
Abdur'Rahman, previously known as James Lee Jones, is known for his legal
challenges to Tennessee's lethal injection procedure. He has said he was part
of a group trying to cleanse the community of drug dealers when he fatally
stabbed Patrick Daniels with a butcher knife and critically injured a woman.
(source: Associated Press)
Thriving at home after 13 years on death row with multiple sclerosis
Paul House lived with multiple sclerosis for 13 of 22 years on Tennessee's
death row before DNA evidence freed him.
Paul House left Tennessee's death row nearly 4 years ago a crippled man. Sure,
he was free, but after 13 years of living with multiple sclerosis in prison, he
was a gaunt shell of a man, unable to walk or barely talk, scared to go out in
public for fear of being harassed.
Now, he’s a different person, says his mother, Joyce House. He has new teeth,
and an affinity for Arby’s beef-and-cheddar sandwiches has helped him gain
weight. Thanks to treatment and medication, he can communicate with others and
play online poker. When it’s not too hot outside, he exercises on parallel bars
in his mother's backyard so that one day, he can hopefully transition from a
wheelchair to a walker.
Most importantly, he has overcome a fear of public scrutiny that had haunted
him since his release in 2008, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that new DNA
evidence could have led a jury to acquit him in the 1985 murder of Carolyn
Muncey. House spent 22 years on death row before his release.
"When he first came home, he didn't want to go anywhere. He was so afraid
people were going to come up to him and say, 'oh you're a murderer,' " his
mother said. "I told him people know you're innocent, I know you're innocent,
you know you're innocent. He’d say, 'yeah, but does everyone else know?'"
House was placed under house arrest in 2008 while he awaited retrial. In 2009,
a month before his trial, Union County District Attorney Paul Phillips filed a
petition to drop all charges, saying DNA evidence presented significant
"Took 'em long enough," House said at the time.
His lawyer said he has filed a petition for executive clemency, which would
provide for financial compensation. "He’ll never be able to walk, but he still
strives to one day reach the walker,” Joyce House said.
"He says, 'whenever I get to where I can walk with the walker, we're going to
see Mr. Kissinger,' the lawyer who set him free," she said.
Doctor charged in Seattle murders of partner, child
Dr. Louis Chen and his longtime partner, Eric Cooper, shared an overwhelming
desire to have a child.
While Chen was working as an attending physician at the Veterans Administration
Medical Center in Minneapolis, they began the long process of having a child
through surrogacy, according to several friends of the couple.
Their child was not adopted from outside the country, as originally reported,
but conceived with Chen's sperm and the egg of an anonymous Taiwanese woman,
and carried to term by a surrogate mother from Oregon, the friends said. When
the child was born nearly 3 years ago, he was adopted by Eric Cooper and named
"They loved that baby. They adored him," said a friend who had gone to medical
school with Chen and is now a physician in Massachusetts. "It was one thing
they always agreed on, and it was really very sweet."
Chen, 39, was charged Tuesday morning with 2 counts of aggravated murder in
connection with the slayings of Cooper, 29, and their son Thursday in the
Seattle-area apartment they shared. A conviction on the charges is punishable
by either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Friends of the couple as well as a relative of Cooper described their
relationship and their efforts to start a family in interviews Monday with The
Times. All spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The 2 men met about 12 years ago when Chen, an immigrant from Taiwan, was
attending the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and Cooper was
a 17-year-old high-school senior in Tinley Park, Ill., friends said.
"He was a gay kid from a small-town high school," the Massachusetts physician
said of Cooper. "He felt isolated. ... It was the kind of town where Chicago
was the big city, but you didn't go there that often."
Cooper's relative said that Cooper ran away from home to be with Chen. He was
"head over heels in love with that man and followed him everywhere," he said.
While Chen was completing his medical degree in Chicago, Cooper was working on
his GED diploma, friends said.
Public records show that the men moved in 2000 to California, where Chen did
his residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
The couple moved to Seattle, where Chen, changing his specialty, studied
physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Washington School of
But Chen changed his mind again, according to his physician friend, and
returned to San Diego to complete his program in internal medicine.
Chen was granted a faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota and
served as an attending physician at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis, while
Cooper earned his bachelor's degree from the university.
It was while the couple were living in Minnesota that they had the boy, their
Cooper and Chen then moved to Durham after Chen was accepted into a prestigious
2-year clinical fellowship in endocrinology at Duke University.
According to friends, the 2 men settled into a neighborhood near the
university, where Chen, a "Type A" personality, dived into his work and Cooper
stayed at home with the baby.
Friends said that Cooper was "very sweet, very nice and extraordinary" with
Several friends said that while Chen was the dominant personality in the
relationship and could be "bossy" to Cooper, there were no signs of the kind of
rage that police say was evident at the crime scene.
According to family, Cooper said he was planning to go back to school to become
a nurse, but at the same time dabbled in an online flavored-tea company that
never took off.
"He was very young and naive," said the Massachusetts physician. Cooper's
interests included theater, non-Western cuisine and celebrity gossip, another
Colleagues of Chen's at Duke had been instructed by Monday not to speak to the
media, but on Friday one of Chen's supervisors, Dr. Mark Feinglos, described
his work as "outstanding."
Despite many "good years," it was clear that the couple's relationship was
ending by the time Chen had accepted a job at Virginia Mason Medical Center and
they moved to Seattle in July, the Massachusetts physician said.
"Eric was so young, he just hadn't had the range of experiences that Louis had
had," said a friend.
Things, nevertheless, appeared to be going well, friends said.
They had rented the penthouse apartment on First Hill, and Chen was expected to
start his new job at Virginia Mason this week.
Chen, who had previously hidden his sexual orientation and the birth of his son
from his family, had finally come out to them, according to friends.
"They completely accepted him, and his mother was excited to meet the child,"
said one friend. "She was coming out to Seattle to help them take care of him."
The couple had planned to separate amicably and intended to live together while
they got settled in their new city.
Eventually, according to the Massachusetts physician, Chen was going to rent
another residence nearby and the couple planned to co-parent equally.
But something happened in the three weeks since the physician last spoke with
Chen. On Thursday, a representative from Virginia Mason went to the couple's
apartment, according to an affidavit of probable cause released Monday by King
County prosecutors. Chen answered the door nude and covered in blood.
Seattle police were immediately summoned, and they found Cooper dead and the
couple's son slain in a bathroom. Chen was slumped over near the front door.
Police asked Chen, "Who stabbed you and your partner?" Chen said, "I did,"
according to the affidavit.
An affidavit of probable cause outlines the law-enforcement case against the
Chen, who suffered undisclosed injuries, remained hospitalized Monday at
Harborview Medical Center, according Donohoe, the spokesman for the Prosecuting
Chen's attorney could not be reached on Monday.
"This is just so hard to believe," said one friend. "Almost impossible,
(source: News & Observer)
ACLU says Montana's revised execution method doesn't solve constitutional
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana says the state's revised method
of carrying out executions doesn't remedy concerns over its constitutionality.
The Montana Department of Corrections issued a new execution protocol earlier
this week that, among other changes, replaces one of the drugs used in lethal
The drug has been taken off the market.
The ACLU earlier sued the state over the old procedure in the case of the
planned execution of Canadian Ronald Allen Smith. The lawsuit contends that
death by lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment,
arguing that pain can be felt during the process.
The group says the new procedure remains insufficient in several areas and
fails to ensure that execution of prisoners is not cruel and unusual
(source: Associated Press)
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