The same jury that found Roland Norman Comtois guilty of murdering a 14-year-old Chatsworth girl and shooting and sexually assaulting her best friend recommended Thursday that the 60-year-old transient die in the gas chamber.
The gray-bearded Comtois trembled as the clerk read the jury's recommendation of death, then wiped his eyes as he was led from the crowded courtroom by sheriff's deputies.
Comtois will return to San Fernando Superior Court on July 31 for formal sentencing by Judge Ronald S. Coen.
Comtois was convicted June 6 on eight felony counts--including murder, attempted murder, sexual assault and kidnaping--in connection with the 1987 abduction and shooting of Wendy Masuhara and her 13-year-old friend. Masuhara died, but the other girl, now 16, survived and testified in the case against Comtois.
Outside the courtroom, family and friends of the victims celebrated the verdict with hugs and laughter.
"Personally, I really didn't care if it was the death penalty or life" in prison, said Lynne Masuhara, mother of the slain girl. "I just don't want him out on the street."
Comtois' family, which had watched much of the trial's penalty phase this week, was not present for his sentencing.
None of the 12 jurors who decided Comtois' fate would talk to reporters.
Because of the nature of Comtois' crimes, the jury had to choose between sending him to prison for the rest of his life or sending him to the gas chamber. It announced its decision at 1:45 p.m. Thursday, after about five hours of deliberation.