A Panorama City father who killed a man he believed had raped his stepdaughter acted calmly and deliberately, rather than out of sudden rage, and should be found guilty of first-degree murder, a prosecutor said Friday.
In opening statements to a Van Nuys Superior Court jury, Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert L. Cohen said the defendant, Raymond Wisecarver, waited two days after his 15-year-old stepdaughter reported that she had been attacked by a friend last July.
Wisecarver, 44, set out to kill Edward Shreckengaust only after police had questioned Shreckengaust and decided that the evidence was insufficient at that time to warrant his arrest for rape, Cohen said.
Didn't 'Fly Into a Rage'
"He didn't walk in on them and fly into a rage," Cohen said outside the court. "He didn't take sudden action when his daughter told him of the incident.
"He waited two days and then acted because he was unhappy about the way police handled the case. That's premeditated murder."
Cohen told the jury that most of the facts of the case will not be disputed.
Instead, he said, jurors will be asked to decide whether Wisecarver's actions amounted to a crime and, if so, whether the shooting constituted murder or manslaughter.
Deputy Public Defender Mark Lessem told the jury that he will withhold his opening statement until the prosecution has presented its evidence.
Outside the courtroom, Lessem refused to comment on his defense strategy. He did say, however, that courts have held that "sudden rage" or "heat of passion," the terms commonly used to define manslaughter, can develop over a few days and need not be an immediate response.
The trial, in the courtroom of Judge David D. Perez, is expected to last about a week.
Reportedly Sought Revenge
Wisecarver is accused of deciding to seek revenge after his stepdaughter went to police and reported that Shreckengaust, 23, of Reseda had raped her July 8 in his apartment, Cohen said.
Police said the complaint was tainted because the girl failed to tell them that she and Shreckengaust had shared cocaine that day, a fact that became known when police interviewed Shreckengaust, who denied raping the girl. When confronted with Shreckengaust's statement, the girl admitted the drug use, but continued to maintain that she had been sexually attacked, Cohen said.
Detectives told the Wisecarver family that because of the conflicting statements, Shreckengaust would not be arrested until they had an opportunity to investigate further.
Borrowed a Shotgun
At that moment, Wisecarver began plotting to kill Shreckengaust, Cohen said. Wisecarver first asked a friend for a gun and, when he was turned down, went to a neighbor and borrowed his 12-gauge shotgun, Cohen said.
Wisecarver told the friend that he drove to Shreckengaust's apartment July 10 with a briefcase in his hand and posed as a magazine salesman at the front door, Cohen said. When Shreckengaust opened the door, Wisecarver shot him through the screen, Cohen said.
Wisecarver's wife, Deborah, 36, was also charged with murder and conspiracy on the theory that she helped her husband plan the killing. But charges against her were dismissed in October when a Municipal Court judge ruled after a preliminary hearing that the evidence to prosecute her was insufficient.