Ignacio Arriola Tafoya
Sentenced to death for the murder of Gerald Skillman, a small-time marijuana and methamphetamine dealer, and Steven Rita in 1992.
A 25-year-old Oakland man was sentenced to death 03/05/1993 for fatally stabbing a popular social worker and then cutting off her ring finger to steal her wedding band. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi upheld a jury's recommendation last month that Gregory Tate be put to death for the April 1988 slaying of 56-year-old Sarah LaChapelle.
Brandon Arnae Taylor
In 1996, a San Diego County jury convicted defendant Brandon Arnae Taylor of the first degree murder of 80-year-old Rosa Mae Dixon, forcible rape of an elderly victim while engaged in a residential burglary, forcible oral copulation, residential burglary, and first degree robbery.
Around 9:30 p.m. on June 23, 1995, 80-year-old Rosa Mae Dixon sat in the living room of her San Diego home conversing with her sister Betty Hayes, who was visiting from Kansas. The women were startled and “scared to death” when they looked up and saw defendant calmly standing in the room staring at them. Defendant, who was 22 years old at the time and lived nearby, apparently had entered the house from the back after tearing a hole through a mesh screen.
After mumbling something that might have been his name, defendant closed the front door over the security screen and sat down on the couch between the two women. When Dixon rose and asked defendant what he wanted, he grabbed the front of her nightgown. At Dixon‟s direction, Hayes went into the front bedroom to call 911, but when she picked up the telephone, defendant chased after her, jerked the receiver out of her hand, and pulled the cord from the wall. Defendant then grabbed Hayes by her clothing, took hold of Dixon in the same manner, and pushed the two women down the hall to a bedroom in the back of the house.
At some point before defendant forced Dixon and Hayes to the back bedroom, one of the women came outside onto the front porch, yelled for help, and then ran back into the house. Dixon‟s next-door neighbor, Erik Kirkpatrick, heard the cry and came to investigate. Receiving no response to his knock on the front door, Kirkpatrick went to the side of the house, looked through a window, and saw defendant on his knees hunched over Dixon. After hearing a male voice mumble something like, “I don‟t want to have to hurt you,” and a female voice respond, “Okay, just don‟t hurt me,” Kirkpatrick quickly returned to his own house to call 911 and waited for police to arrive.
Freddie L. Taylor
Freddie Lee Taylor was convicted on 05/30/1986 for beating to death an elderly woman in 1985.
Keith Desmond Taylor
Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death for breaking into the home of 33-year-old Marilyn Mishak and stabbing and strangling her to death on Sept. 1, 1994.
Convicted of killing Ryoko Hanano, 60, and seriously wounding her husband, Kazumi, then 62, during a July 10, 1988, robbery at an Anaheim home. Sentenced Jan. 30, 1992.
Alex Dale Thomas
Raped and killed 18-year-old Michelle Montoya.
Correll Lamont Thomas
Prosecutor Glenn McAllister argued that Creed Grote was shot to death after he did no more than look at Lamont Thomas' girlfriend when they pulled up next to Thomas' car at a Spring Valley intersection. Thomas and his girlfriend chased the car carrying Grote and a friend, Troy Ortiz, until Thomas was able to fire at Grote's car with a submachine gun. Grote was killed and Ortiz injured.
Justin Heath Thomas was sentenced to death on 03/12/2008
Justin Heath Thomas accused of killing Rafael Noriega during a 1992 drug deal in Moreno Valley was convicted of first degree murder. Justin Heath Thomas was previously convicted of murder for killing a woman in Texas in 1996 and was sentenced to life in prison. He was extradited to California in 2000 to face murder charges in Riverside County where he was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Assistant District Attorney Chuck Hughes prosecuted this milestone case.
Keith Tyson Thomas
Keith Tyson Thomas was sentenced to death on 01/16/1998
Dec 8, Francia Young (25), a SF market analyst, was kidnapped at the MacArthur BART station, and raped and killed by Keith Tyson Thomas and Henry "Rooter" Glover. Glover was sentenced to life in 1996 and Thomas received the death penalty.
Convicted of one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder for the 1985 killings of Connecticut resident Gregory Kniffin, 19, and New York resident Mary Gioia, 22, according to the majority opinion authored by Justice Kathryn Werdegar.
Update: U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel Overturned Conviction 9/09.
Regis D Thomas
February 22nd 1993 was a day no Compton cop would ever forget. It was nighttime as veteran officer K. Burrell and reserve officer Jimmy MacDonald rode together. Burrell was a 6ft 5inch 300-pound giant of a black man. He was an aggressive officer who loved to make the good felony arrest. Jimmy was a white officer, and was his last night riding in Compton because he just got hired fulltime as a police officer in northern California. This night would be their last night alive, as they were about to pull over one of the most ruthless “Bounty Hunter” Blood gang members around. His name was Regis Thomas. Within the last year, he was released from jail on a murder charge, due to fact the only eye witness to the case turned up murdered. Thomas grew up in Nickerson Gardens on Imperial Highway in L.A. In our opinion this large housing project, along with Imperial Courts and Jordan Downs are the worst places in L.A. You just don’t go into these projects at night, unless you have at the minimum four cops.
Officers again heard that one radio call, you never want to hear, as Compton dispatchers put out the radio call “shots fired at Rosecrans and Dwight Street, officers down”. When officers arrived, they found the police car facing west on Rosecrans Blvd. with its overhead lights going. In front of he car was Officer MacDonald laying in the street, shot numerous times, the worst was one shot to the back of the head at close range. Burrell was lying down by the curb also suffering from numerous gunshots. Burrell also shot in the head at close range and both were dead.
Our Police Department was in shambles. Kevin and Jimmy had been the first officers’ shot and killed in Compton. In addition, our personnel were paralyzed with grief, and unable to get a grip on the investigation. Chief Taylor made one of the best decisions of his career, he asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for assistance. We had already lost two days of the investigation since the Department had been bombarded, and over whelmed with clues relating to the shooting. The Sheriff’s Department had the resources, but we had the gang intelligence, so a Task Force was formed. We were part of this Task Force and were proud to be a part of the arrest and conviction of Regis Thomas who is currently on death row.
Convicted of masterminding the 1990 murder of her husband Melvin Thompson for his life insurance in Los Angeles County. She was sentenced on June 10, 1993.
James Alvin Thompson
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the death sentence in the case of an ex-convict convicted of killing a developmentally disabled man in an isolated section of Riverside County.
Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, writing for the court, rejected all claims of error by James Alvin Thompson in connection with his 1996 trial for the murder of Ronald Gitmed, who was 25 years old when he was killed in 1991. The court rejected Thompson’s claim that the sentence was unfair because he was not found to have personally shot the victim, suggesting that the man who implicated him was the actual killer.
Prosecutors said Thompson promised Gitmed $1,000 to drive him out to the Canyon Lake area, ostensibly to collect a $6,000 debt, but then forced him to disrobe at gunpoint, shot him three times, and stole his possessions.
The prosecution’s case was based largely on the testimony of Tony Mercurio, a friend of the defendant who was arrested several months after the shooting on unrelated charges. Mercurio told police that he was with Thompson when the shooting occurred, although he claimed he had no idea his friend intended to rob or kill Gitmed.
Mercurio agreed to testify truthfully about Thompson’s involvement as part of a plea bargain. He pled guilty to some of the original charges against him, as well as to helping Thompson dispose of Gitmed’s car, and spent a year in custody.
Prosecutors presented other witnesses who testified they saw Thompson with Gitmed’s car, and that Thompson and Mercurio took belongings out of Gitmed’s storage locker in Riverside.
The defense sought to impeach Mercurio’s testimony and offered alibi testimony that Thompson was having dinner with his uncle when the crime occurred. Jurors found the defendant guilty of first degree murder with a robbery special circumstance, but found “not true” the allegation that he personally used a firearm to commit the crime.
Thompson then fired his attorneys, said he wanted to receive the death penalty rather than life imprisonment without possibility of parole, and presented no witnesses or argument in opposition to the death penalty. Prior to the penalty phase, the jury found in a bifurcated proceeding that Thompson was previously convicted of first degree murder in Texas.
In the penalty phase, prosecutors presented evidence that in the Texas case, Thompson had gotten into an argument with a man who picked him up while hitchhiking. The man had gotten drunk and asked Thompson to drive, but the two quarreled after the man accused Thompson of taking his wallet, and Thompson stabbed him to death before taking money from the man’s pockets.
Prosecutors also presented testimony regarding the defendant’s prior conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm and the impact of the murder on the vulnerable victim’s family.
In denying the defense motion to set aside the death penalty verdict and imposing the sentence, Riverside Superior Court Judge Villa G. Sherman said that regardless of Mercurio’s possible involvement in the murder, the defendant had benefitted from it. The judge noted that some of the victim’s stolen property was found in the trunk of Thompson’s mother’s car and that Thompson himself had taken the victim’s car, although he later burned it in an effort to cover up the crimes.
The judge also noted the similarity between the killing of Gitmed and the Texas murder.
On appeal, the defense argued that the property found in the defendant’s mother’s car should have been suppressed as the fruits of an illegal warrantless search.
Prosecutors successfully argued, however, that the search was supported by probable cause. They presented evidence that they had searched the mother’s house pursuant to a warrant, but that the mother’s daughter told them that the items they were looking for—which had been described by another witness as having been removed from the apartment of another family member—were in her mother’s car.
Police then waited for the mother to return home, and when she did they searched the trunk. Werdegar, writing for the high court, said the facts established probable cause for a search of the vehicle and all containers therein.
The justice also rejected the contention that because Mercurio testified that he was not involved in the shooting, and the jury found that the defendant did not personally use a firearm, there was insufficient evidence to convict Thompson.
Werdegar explained that even if the jury was uncertain as to what specific role Thompson played, there was enough evidence to convince a reasonable person that he either killed the victim personally or aided and abetted Mercurio in doing so.
The justice explained that where a jury relies on multiple grounds for conviction, and at least one of the grounds is factually sufficient, the verdict will stand absent a showing that the jury relied on an insufficient ground.
“[T]he evidence reasonably supports the inference that both Mercurio and defendant planned and carried out the robbery and murder,” Werdegar said. “Mercurio placed all the blame on defendant, but from the other evidence presented at trial the jury could reasonably have inferred Mercurio was a coperpetrator in the crimes.”
The court also rejected the argument that the death sentence was disproportionate to the defendant’s personal culpability.
“[T]he evidence supports the conclusion that defendant, even if not the shooter, was a major participant in the crime,” Werdegar wrote. “He intentionally maneuvered Gitmed, a particularly vulnerable individual, to an isolated spot for the purpose of robbing and killing him, which was effectuated by defendant acting alone or together with Mercurio. As to defendant’s personal characteristics, he had committed a previous murder in Texas. A prior murder is among the most compelling of aggravating circumstances.”
Convicted and sentenced to death in May 1995. Thornton abducted and fatally shot Westlake nurse Kellie O'Sullivan during a carjacking on Sept. 14, 1993. O'Sullivan was on the way to pick up her son from school when Thornton confronted her outside a pet store. He forced her to drive with him to an isolated area in the Santa Monica Mountains, where he shot her and stole her vehicle.
Michael Forrest Thornton
Date of crime: April 2001
Along with Michael Thornton, Snyder was convicted of kidnapping, torturing, sexually abusing and killing 16-year-old Michelle Curran. Two other teenage girls testified at the trial of how Snyder lured them to a hotel and Thornton raped them. Snyder also confessed to killing a 14-year-old girl who had been missing for over five years. Snyder was a friend of Thornton’s daughter and moved in with him after having problems with her own family. Thornton’s former wife testified to overhearing him discuss how he had killed a young girl and dismembered her body before throwing it in the ocean.
A former Camp Pendleton Marine sergeant who tortured and fatally stabbed a young mother who caught him stealing video games from her Vista home was sentenced to death Thursday.
Derlyn Threats, 29, was convicted last year of first-degree murder with special circumstances in the Sept. 1, 2005, death of 24-year-old Carolyn Neville.
Neville, who had just returned home from dropping her 6-year-old son at school, was stabbed more than 70 times, including final blows from garden shears the defendant got from her garage, said Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza.
Espinoza called the killing "sadistic -- just a level of horror (with) unspeakable acts," and said Threats was found at a nearby home with the victim's blood splattered on his clothing, providing "damning, compelling evidence of guilt."
Sentenced to Death 8/19/10.
Have been sentenced to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin for their "callous and cruel"murder of Visalia nurse Ivon Pontbriant on March 1, 1988.
Co-defendant Richard Letner got a death sentence too.
Anthony Townsel was sentenced to death on 09/13/1991
Anthony Townsel was convicted of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her brother-in-law was ordered to die in the California gas chamber. A jury had found Townsel guilty of first-degree murder in the 1989 shootings of Martha Diaz, 20, and Mauricio Martinez Jr., 23. Assistant Dist. Atty. Ernest LiCalsi told the jury that Townsel killed his ex-girlfriend because she had left him after a fight and moved in with her sister and Martinez.
Ronald Tran was received at San Quinten on 08/26/2008
Nov. 1995 – Two men, Ronald Tri Tran and Noel Jesse Plata, break into the Parks' house. After forcing Linda Park, 18, to guide them to the family's valuables, they killed her and fled.
March 2001 – Tran and Plata arrested and charged.
Nov. 2007 – Jury finds Tran and Plata guilty and recommends the death penalty.
Aug. 2008 – Before the judge hands down a death sentence to both men, Tran apologizes to the Parks and to his own family.
John Raymond Travis
Five San Jose men tied up a Santa Clara crafts store manager and tortured him to death with a filet knife and a stun gun, police said Wednesday. And after killing James Donald Madden, 35, the soft-spoken manager of Leewards Crafts Store, the men checked into a San Mateo motel and launched a spending spree with some of the $9,000 from the store safe, police said. They bought four used cars, and new jeans, jackets and running shoes.
Travis had been sentenced to death on 06/13/1997 for his participation in this crime.
Dung Dinh Anh Trinh
Dung Dinh Anh Trinh was sentenced to death on 04/14/2003
Dung Dinh Anh Trinh, who dared jurors in three penalty-phase hearings to vote for death, got his wish when he was sentenced for killing three employees of an Anaheim hospital in 1999 hours after his mother died.
September 13, 1997
James "Huero" Trujeque and Hermino "Spankio" Serna are sentenced to death ending the 1992 Nuestra Familia trial. The final tally places the cost of the trial at $10 million.
Victims: Tony ``Little Weasel'' Herrera, Larry Valles and Esteban Guzman, alleged drug dealers who reportedly balked at paying taxes to the gang; Eli Rosas, said to have ``disrespected'' other gang members; Marcos Baca, thought to be a snitch, whose body was found on the grounds of Santee Elementary School; and Ray ``Chocolate'' Perez, a gang wannabe who may have made the mistake of breaking gang rules. The seventh victim to die, Sheila Apodaca, was allegedly killed on the orders of her boyfriend -- Bobby Lopez -- because she furiously objected to his womanizing and threatened to retaliate.
Tuilaepa, 37, was convicted of killing Melvin Whiddon and shooting three others during a barroom robbery in Long Beach in October of 1986. His IQ, according to court records, is in the "low 70s." A police account of the arrest says that an accomplice, David Laupua, "immediately and spontaneously stated: 'I killed the guy. Let my friend go.'" Tuilaepa's attorney, Ron Slick, had eight clients sentenced to death and was known in some legal circles as "Dr. Death." The guilt phase of Tuilaepa's trial lasted three and a half hours -- the defense presented no evidence. For the penalty phase, Slick put on only three witnesses -- testimony lasted just over three hours.
Sentenced to death in 1992 for murdering nurse Shirley "Sandy"Olsson in July 1986 by stabbing.
Chester Dwayne Turner
Chester D. Turner, a pizza delivery man, raped and strangled at least 10 women in South Los Angeles. In 2004 DNA Turner (39) was charged with 10 murders based on DNA evidence. Turner was already serving an 8-year sentence for rape when DNA linked him to the serial killings. In 2007 he was sentenced to death. The victims, in the order they died, were Diane Johnson, 21; Annette Ernest, 26; Anita Fishman, 31; Regina Washington, 27, and her unborn child; Andrea Tripplett; Desarae Jones, 29; Natalie Price, 31; Mildred Beasley, 45; Paula Vance, 38; and Brenda Bries, 37
Was convicted of the 1979 execution-style slayings of a physician and a teacher in an airport hangar. Melvin Turner was sentenced to death for the shooting deaths of Dr. Joseph Hill, 35, of Harbor City, and Joella Champion, 44, of Torrance. Prosecutors said Turner shot both victims in the head with a .38-caliber handgun as they lay bound and gagged on the floor of a hangar at the Torrance Municipal Airport, where Champion was showing her airplane to Hill. Turner and a co-defendant, Teague Hampton Scott, had stopped at the airport to steal Hill's sports car, prosecutors said. Scott, 30, of Inglewood is serving a sentence of 52 years to life in prison for the slayings.
Richard Dean Turner
Shot an elederly couple to death in their home. He was sentenced to death in 1988.
William Thaddeus Turner
Was convicted of the first-degree murders of his estranged wife, Shirley Turner, and her roommate, Joyce Brown.
Convicted and sentenced to Death for the 1989 murder of Ernesto Macias, which jurors found was committed in the course of a robbery at the victim's Pomona house.
Richard Anthony Valdez
on 28-year-old Luis Maciel, who authorities said recruited people to carry out orders of a prison gang to kill the family April 22, 1995. Maciel was convicted of murder on Jan. 30 after a trial.
Prosecutors argued that the deaths were ordered by a Mexican Mafia prison gang as retribution against one of the victims, Anthony Morena, 42, for his decision 12 years earlier to leave the group in violation of a gang code.
The other victims were Morena's sister, Maria, 38; her son, Ambrose Padilla Jr., 6 months; her daughter, Laura, 5; and a friend Gus "Tito" Aguirre, 36. One child survived by hiding under a pile of debris.
The gunmen, Richard Anthony Valdez, 25, of West Covina and Jimmy Palma, 25, of Arcadia, were sentenced to death last June, and another accomplice, Anthony Torres, 31, of Alhambra, is serving life without opportunity for parole. Two others involved in the killings, Daniel Logan, 21, of Pasadena and Jose Ortiz, 26, of San Gabriel, are serving 129 years to life.
Convicted in the Dec. 15, 1993, stabbing and robbing of Roberto Cruz, 22, of Santa Ana. Sentenced Jan. 23, 1996.
James Glen Van Pelt
Was sentenced to death on 07/12/2002 a Homeland ax murder than had been 17-year-old cold case.
Eduardo David Vargas
Convicted and sentenced to Death on 10/04/2001 for the 1999 murder of Jesse Muro.
Scott Paul Varner
A Shasta County man convicted of a brutal murder in 2005 has been sentenced to death. Scott Varner received the sentence from the judge. He was found guilty in October of killing Jeannette Mariedth in the November 2005 slaying. The jury recommended the death penalty for Varner. He and Joanna Peterson allegedly hijacked Mriedth's car and made her stop at several places to buy things like food. They then forced her to drive to the Whiskeytown Cemetery. Varner wrapped a plastic bag around her neck, hit her in the face, and strangled her. They dumped the body in the cemetery.
Sentenced to Death 4/13/10.
Chauncey Veasly was sentenced to death on 01/21/1992 for the murderes of Anthony Quinn Nelson, 30, and Charles Hunter, 26, Jurors voted to condemn Veasley, in the deaths of the reputed drug dealers. The pair were shot execution style as they knelt in front of a mirror in a room of the motel at 2470 S. Garey Ave.
Nathan James Verdugo was sentenced to death on 01/19/1999
Nathan James Verdugo was sent to San Quentin's death row by the jury that had convicted him of the Oct. 23, 1994, murders of Yolanda Navarro, 18, and Richard Rodriguez, 18.
The two victims were driving home from a Glassell Park party when their car was sideswiped forcing them to stop. Verdugo, according to authorities, then exited the other car, shot to death Rodriquez and chased after a fleeing Navarro. Navarro loudly pleaded for her life as she lay curled up in a fetal position on the street. The killer stood over her and shot her in the head.
Verdugo may have acted in revenge against the wrong people, mistakenly believing that the young couple were part of an angry altercation that had erupted earlier at the party, police said.
Convicted and sentenced to Death 2/08 for the 1999 rapes and murders of 37-year-old Maria "Lisa'' Boyd and 16-year-old Amanda Hoffman.
Sentenced to death in Stanislaus County in 1991 for four murders committed in the small town of Salida. In 1990, Vieira was living at a place called “The Camp,” which was a small complex of houses and trailers. Vieira lived in a trailer with David Beck. Jason LaMarsh lived in another trailer behind Vieira’s. Both trailers were behind Gerald Cruz’s house. Cruz was the leader of this group. Tensions developed in The Camp because Franklin Raper, a man in his 50’s who
lived there, sold drugs from his trailer. Raper also got into a dispute with a neighbor over an electricity bill. Cruz liked the neighbor and was angry at Raper. Tensions increased when Raper got into a fight with LaMarsh over charges that Raper had stolen one of LaMarsh’s guns. Raper moved away from the camp and into a house in Salida. Cruz met with Vieira, LaMarsh, Beck, Ron Willey, and Michelle Evans. Cruz made a plan for the group to go to Raper’s house and “do them all and leave no witnesses.” Cruz also threatened those who did not do their job would join the victims. The group went to Raper’s house armed with baseball bats, a police-style baton, and knives. Except for Cruz, the men were dressed in camouflage and masks. Evans and LaMarsh entered the house and led whoever was inside to the living room. Evans let Vieira and Beck into the house through a window and returned to the car. Cruz and
Willey approached the house, and people inside started screaming and running. Four people were killed that night. Richard Ritchey ran from the house and was beaten by Cruz and Willey with a police-style baton until Cruz cut his throat with a knife. Roger Colwell’s throat was slit inside the house. Emmie Paris died when Vieira slit her throat after beating her with a baseball bat. Raper died of skull fractures after being beaten. One woman escaped, and a neighbor saw Ritchey’s death at the hands of Cruz.
Sean Venyette Vines
Was sentenced to death for the Sept. 28, 1994, slaying of Ronald Joshua Lee, 20. Lee was the father of a 4-month-old son and was engaged to be married, during a robbery of a McDonalds restaurant. Lee was a trainee at this time.
Lester W. Virgil
A jury has convicted a 30-year-old man for the 1992 stabbing death of a USC student who had escaped the violence of Cambodia only to die during a holdup at her sister's Gardena doughnut shop. The panel found Lester W. Virgil guilty of murder, robbery and assault charges in the slaying of Soy Song Lao, 21. She was stabbed about 35 times in the chest as she worked a weekend afternoon shift at the El Segundo Avenue doughnut shop.
Convicted in the Nov. 8, 1982, murder of Timothy Dykstra, 22, of Garden Grove during a robbery. Sentenced Oct. 21, 1983.
Loi Tan Vo
Loi Tan Vo and Stephen Hajek had been sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of Si Chieh Hung by garroting her with a rope and slashing her throat.
Convicted and sentenced to Death 6/08 in the 2005 killing of California Highway Patrol Officer Andy Stevens. Volarvich was convicted of shooting and killing Stevens during a November 2005 traffic stop along County Road 96 west of Woodland.