Two young men convicted in the 1991 shotgun slayings of three teen-age girls in Pasadena were given maximum sentences Wednesday after a judge heard emotional accounts from members of the victims' families about how the murders had devastated their lives.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge J. Michael Byrne sentenced David Adkins, 18, to life in prison without the possibility of parole and Vincent Hebrock, 19, to 51 years to life. The two defendants, who had been found guilty by separate juries last August, sat grim-faced and rigid as the judge read the sentences.
"I feel as though I, too, were murdered," said a tearful Maureen Palermo, mother of Danae Palermo, who was slain with Kathy Macaulay and Heather Goodwin on March 21, 1991.
The murders were carried out during a party of drinking and marijuana smoking in Macaulay's home in Pasadena's hillside Annandale neighborhood after an argument between Hebrock and two of the girls, one of whom had kicked him in the groin.
According to trial testimony, Hebrock shot Macaulay, 18, with a shotgun belonging to Macaulay's stepfather, Michael Koss. Then, according to a witness and a statement by the defendant, Adkins grabbed the weapon and "took" Palermo, 17, and Goodwin, 18. Each girl was shot once in the head, execution-style.
Though the murders were "senseless," Byrne said, they appeared to have been premeditated. There was "substantial evidence of planning and substantial evidence of execution," the judge said.
Adkins was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, with the special circumstance of having committed multiple murders. Hebrock was found guilty of three counts of second-degree murder, with the additional finding that he had used a firearm in the commission of a felony.
The special circumstance in Adkins' case directed Byrne, by state law, toward a sentence of life without parole, the judge said. But because Adkins was 16, a juvenile, at the time of the crime, Byrne had the discretion of disregarding the finding.
"But it would take something extremely unusual," Byrne said, for a judge to disregard the jury's finding. He said he had found no such mitigating circumstances because of the "systematic" way in which the murders were carried out.
Adkins' juvenile status made him ineligible for the death penalty.
In Hebrock's case, the use of the firearm added five years to three consecutive 15-year terms for his involvement in the murders. He was given an additional year because another principal in the crime, Adkins, used the shotgun.
Hebrock could be eligible for parole in about 30 years, said the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Nancy Naftel.
Siblings and parents of the dead girls had pleaded with Byrne to give Adkins and Hebrock the maximum sentences.
"If they can kill like this, for absolutely no reason, who can say they will never kill again?" said Michael Funk, Macaulay's older brother.
Linda Koss Macaulay, the girl's mother, spoke of dreams in which she relived the crime.
"But some dreams are even worse, where I dream that Katherine is still alive," she said. "When I am awakened, there's always a moment when I forget and I think my life is whole again."
Koss Macaulay, a pathologist at County-USC Medical Center, said that her daughter's death affected her work.
"I'm no longer the calm, collected scientist that I used to be," she said. "I have to reach so hard to remember things."
Palermo's sister, Rochelle Palermo, 25, with whom the girl was living at the time of her death, said: "I still awaken, fearing there's someone in the house. To this day, I hear songs that instantly remind me of Danae and I immediately start to cry."
Adkins' mother, Pam Discala, asked Byrne to show compassion for her son.
"If he did commit these crimes, he could not have done them in a sane state of mind," she said.
As Adkins was led out of the courtroom, Discala rushed to the front railing and said, "David, I love you."
Meanwhile, members of the victims' families embraced each other.
"Hallelujah," one woman said.