SANTA ANA — Cynthia Lynn Coffman moved closer to her second death sentence Monday, when a Superior Court jury found her guilty of murdering a Huntington Beach woman, the third victim in a cross-country killing spree involving Coffman and her ex-convict lover.
The 30-year-old Coffman, dressed in blue jeans, white shirt and high-top running shoes, wept quietly as the verdicts were read in the crowded courtroom.
After three days of deliberations, the jury found Coffman guilty of strangling Lynel Murray, as well as robbing and abducting the 19-year-old Huntington Beach college student from a dry cleaners where she was working.
Coffman, the mother of a 9-year-old son by a previous marriage, was also convicted of burglary and using a gun in the Nov. 7, 1986, incident, but found not guilty of Murray's rape.
Murray's family and friends sat in the first several rows of the spectator section. Her mother, Nancy, who alternately wept and smiled as the verdicts were read, later said she had a "good reaction" to the outcome. She declined further comment, as did other family members.
The jury is scheduled to return Wednesday for the penalty phase of the trial, in which jurors will decide whether Coffman should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole, for either of two special circumstances: murder during the kidnaping, or murder during the robbery.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert C. Gannon Jr., who prosecuted the case, declined comment on the verdict.
Deputy Public Defender Leonard Gumlia said he was disappointed by the jury's two special circumstance findings and said Coffman was also disappointed.
In the penalty phase, Gumlia said, he will try to convince jurors that "her role in the crimes was not one that deserves death."
During the guilt phase of the trial, Gumlia argued that Coffman was a virtual love and sex slave of James Gregory Marlow, an ex-convict whose nickname is "Folsom Wolf."
Coffman, who had a tattoo reading "Property of Folsom wolf" on her buttocks, testified that kidnaping Murray had been Marlow's idea and that he had ordered Coffman to strangle the woman in a Huntington Beach motel room. Coffman testified that she initiated the garroting with a wet towel and that Marlow helped her when she protested she could not finish off Murray.
Marlow, 36, was sentenced to death last month in Orange County for his role in Murray's rape and murder. Seated in the back row of the courtroom yesterday were four members of Marlow's jury in his trial for the Murray murder, who have been following the Coffman trial.
Coffman and Marlow were tried together and sentenced to death in San Bernardino County in 1989 for the sex slaying of 20-year-old Corinna D. Novis, whom they abducted from a Redlands mall five days before the Murray killing. After Coffman and Marlow were arrested, Coffman led police to a vineyard where Novis' body was found in a shallow grave.
During her trial for Murray's killing, Coffman testified that she helped Marlow in a third killing, a contract murder in Kentucky before the couple came to California. In that slaying, Coffman said, she dressed provocatively to lure the victim from his home on the pretense of engine trouble, and Marlow then shot the man. The couple received $5,000 for that killing, Coffman said, for which no charges have been brought.