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Student Gets 27 Years for Two Killings

June 27, 1986|DEBORAH HASTINGS | Times Staff Writer

Robert Gregg Butler was sentenced Thursday to 27 years to life in state prison for the double murder of a Pasadena high school teacher and a 17-year-old student.

During the sentencing hearing before Pasadena Superior Court Judge Coleman Swart, Deputy Dist. Atty. Walter Lewis read excerpts from a probation report that said Butler showed "no remorse" for the slayings and was angry that "people consider him a bad guy, when he has only made this mistake once in his life."

After his arrest in January, Butler, a 23-year-old athlete and police science student, confessed in writing to the Dec. 12 shooting death of Robert E. Jones, 47, a popular instructor at John Muir High School with whom Butler had a "father and son" relationship. He also confessed to the killing of Ronald McClendon, a junior varsity basketball player.

In his confession, Butler said he went to Jones' Pasadena home late on the night of Dec. 11 because he was upset that the teacher had stopped baking him cookies and writing letters to him.

When Jones refused to talk and went back to sleep, Butler told police that "it was more than I could stand." He said he went to the laundry room, where Jones kept a loaded revolver, and shot the teacher and McClendon as they slept in separate rooms.

Despite the confession, Butler had twice pleaded innocent of the murders before changing his plea last month in exchange for the dismissal of special circumstances charges that could have resulted in the death penalty upon conviction.

"The defendant does not want to talk about what was in his head when he stood over the sleeping presence of his friend and poured two bullets into him," said a probation report introduced Thursday.

"Several minutes later, he snuffed out the life of a sleeping 17-year-old boy whom he did not know and who never caused him any harm," the report, prepared by Probation Officer Barry J. Nidorf, said. "The defendant does not want to talk about these things because it will force upon him the realization that he is not somehow a victim."

After the sentencing, Walt Butler, the defendant's uncle, said, "I think overall, as a family, we're glad that it's all over."

Until Robert Butler changed his plea last month, his family and friends had steadfastly maintained his innocence, saying the shy, soft-spoken senior at Azusa Pacific University was incapable of violence. But now, his uncle said, "He's confessed. I'm not making any excuses for him. I never asked him (why). I guess I never really thought that he did it."

Before his arrest, Butler had applied to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy. Last year, he finished second in the nation in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics' 110-meter high hurdle championship.

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