A 26-year-old West Hills man was sentenced Tuesday to 32 years to life in prison for hammering and stabbing to death two roommates because one of them refused to give him cocaine.
Mark Jay Demand was convicted by Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Raymond Mireles last month of two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 18, 1988, slayings. The defense asked the judge to hear the case without a jury.
The victims, Lori Elm, 18, and her boyfriend, Robert Ray Burley, 26, had been dead at least a week when their bodies were found in the house that they had shared with Demand in the 7500 block of Kentland Avenue, police said. Both had been beaten with a hammer. Burley had also been stabbed several times.
Mireles on Tuesday imposed the maximum allowable sentence on Demand, saying that he disagreed with defense attorney Howard Waco and members of the defendant's family that drugs were to blame for Demand's violent actions.
'Don't Blame Cocaine'
"I don't blame cocaine," Mireles said. "I blame children and adults who don't have the values to reject a substance that physically and emotionally destroys them. I don't sympathize with anyone who thinks cocaine is the problem. People are the problem."
Before Demand's sentencing, Patrick Elm, father of the victim, asked to read a statement to the court:
"All of us are victims of this horrendous crime," Elm said, referring to several members of his family present in the courtroom. "The grieving and day-to-day sorrow cannot be described. . . . We plead to the court to show no mercy toward Mark Demand. Mark Demand surely showed no mercy toward his victims."
Elm has said his daughter only knew Burley and Demand a few weeks prior to her death.
Demand, who appeared nervous throughout the short proceeding, also asked to speak. "I'm sorry for what I've done. I don't know how it happened. . . . I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself."
Police said Demand, who lived and worked at the house in exchange for drugs, attacked the couple after Burley refused to give him cocaine. Police believe that Burley was a cocaine dealer and said two large pythons found in the house were apparently used to guard his drugs.
After the killings, Demand took two pounds of cocaine from the house and fled to Las Vegas in a taxi, police said. Once in Las Vegas, he was arrested in a hotel on a charge of possession of cocaine for sale.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Nevada, then extradited to Los Angeles to face the murder charges. Mireles ruled Tuesday that Demand will serve his sentences concurrently.