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Slaying of Pizza Deliveryman Done for Kicks, Jury Told

January 22, 1987|PATRICIA KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

A South Carolina woman and her boyfriend strangled a Glendale pizza deliveryman, then left his bound and gagged body submerged in water in their hotel bathtub "for fun and for kicks," the prosecutor in the case said in opening statements to the jury Wednesday.

Ruby Carolyn Padgett and her boyfriend, Mitchell Carleton Sims, robbed John Steven Harrigan, 21, a Domino's pizza deliveryman, because they needed money. They then killed Harrigan for sport, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry A. Green.

Padgett, 21, a South Carolina native, is on trial before Pasadena Superior Court Judge Jack B. Tso on one count of first-degree murder and one count of armed robbery in the strangulation and drowning of Harrigan on Dec. 9, 1985.

She also is charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of armed robbery in connection with a Dec. 9 attack on two of Harrigan's co-workers.

Sims, 26, a former Domino's pizza employee in South Carolina, is to be tried separately on the same charges beginning Feb. 5. Padgett and Sims also face charges in the killing of two Domino's pizza employees in South Carolina six days before Harrigan's slaying.

Life Term Possible

Because of special-circumstance allegations that Harrigan was killed during a robbery and that his assailants lay in wait for him, Padgett could be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty because of her age and lack of criminal record. They are seeking the death penalty for Sims, however, Green said.

Padgett's court-appointed attorney, Rayford Fountain, said in his opening remarks that Padgett "is willing to take responsibility" for her role in the robbery of Harrigan's two co-workers. But, the attorney added, "Miss Padgett was only a passive observer in the alleged robbery and murder" of Harrigan and the two attempted murders.

"Those crimes were committed solely by Mitchell Sims acting alone. My client has no legal responsibility," Fountain said.

But Green told the jury that Harrigan's murder was a "two-person crime." After meticulous planning, Green alleged, Padgett and Sims lured Harrigan to their room in the Regalodge Motel in Glendale by phoning in an order to the Domino's Pizza Restaurant in Glendale, where Harrigan worked. When he arrived with the pizza, they overpowered him, robbed him and killed him, Green said.

Padgett watched along with the jury a Glendale police "crime scene" videotape of Harrigan's body. Fountain had unsuccessfully sought to have the tape excluded from evidence.

The 17-minute videotape showed Harrigan's body submerged under running water in the hotel room bathtub early the morning of Dec. 10.

After killing Harrigan, Padgett and Sims drove to the Glendale pizzeria in Harrigan's pickup truck, stole $2,000 and forced employees Edmund Sicam and Kory Spiroff into a walk-in freezer where they were tied up so that they would strangle unless they stood on their toes, according to police reports.

"They were strung up in a way to ensure a slow, agonizing death," Green said. "It was a miracle that they were rescued in time."

Padgett and Sims were arrested without resistance in Las Vegas on Christmas Day, 1985, after several people recognized them from news reports, police said.

Harrigan's truck, found in a casino parking lot, contained a gun, a knife and a page from the Las Vegas telephone book listing all of the city's Domino's pizza parlors, police said.

Padgett and Sims also are charged in connection with the Dec. 3, 1985, slayings of two Domino's Pizza employees in the Charleston, S. C., suburb of Hanahan.

Sims faces first-degree murder charges in the South Carolina killings; Padgett is charged as an accessory after the fact. South Carolina is seeking the death penalty against Sims.

Tuesday, Tso ruled that jurors may hear a series of taped conversations the two had with Glendale police in Las Vegas on Dec. 25, 26, and 27, 1985.

Fountain told Tso that Padgett was denied her right to have an attorney present during police questioning, and said she was hungry and exhausted. But Green argued that Padgett knowingly waived her right to an attorney and even requested to speak to police.

Testimony in Padgett's trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

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