A 26-year-old Anaheim woman was convicted today of felony child endangerment for leaving her twin infants unattended in her car for five hours last July, where they died from the heat.
The Orange County Superior Court jury failed to reach a verdict on two other counts of involuntary manslaughter, deadlocking 9 to 3 in favor of conviction. However, the child endangerment counts carry a more serious maximum penalty.
Beverly Jean Ernst faces a maximum sentence of seven years and three months when she returns to the courtroom of Judge Jean H. Rheinheimer on June 19. The involuntary manslaughter counts carried a maximum five-year penalty.
Ernst, whose face has been streaked with tears throughout much of the three-week trial, reached for a box of tissues and wept quietly after the verdict was read. After the jurors had left the courtroom, she walked head down with her attorney to his office and declined to talk to reporters.
Ernst and a boyfriend, Scott Morrow, discovered the bodies of her 3-month-old twins in her sweltering car, parked near a Garden Grove supply store, shortly after noon on July 20, 1986. She had left them in the car shortly after 7 a.m., when Morrow, who lived in the store, invited her inside. They had just returned with the twins, Adam and Ashley, from four hours at a coffee shop.
Ernst and Morrow testified that they inadvertently fell asleep and did not wake up until a few minutes past noon. Ernst testified that she asked Morrow to "listen" for the twins while she rested and that he said he would. Morrow testified he made no agreement.
Some jurors said later, however, the issue was not a significant one.
"You don't ever leave infants alone in a car, ever ," said Karileen Vail, a juror from Cypress.
Several jurors said they were deadlocked 9 to 3 on the involuntary manslaughter counts from the time they began deliberations Monday afternoon.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Wallace J. Wade said he will decide in the next few weeks whether to seek a new trial on those counts but pointed out that a conviction would not extend Ernst's sentence.