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Rampage Suspect Denies Guilt : Courts: The former postal worker's plea surprises his lawyer, who sought postponement. The defendant is accused of two murders and seven attempted murders.

May 11, 1993|LILY DIZON and FRANK MESSINA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

LAGUNA NIGUEL — Mark Richard Hilbun, the former postal worker accused of two murders and seven attempted murders during a two-day crime rampage in Orange County, interrupted his lawyer's presentation Monday to insist on making immediate pleas of not guilty.

Public Defender David Biggs was seeking a postponement from Orange County Municipal Judge Blair Barnette when Hilbun spoke up and said: "No, I want to be arraigned today."

Hilbun then whispered to his attorney on the other side of a glass partition: "The sooner the better."

Hilbun was charged with two counts of murder for allegedly stabbing his 63-year-old mother to death Thursday and then fatally shooting a letter carrier at the Dana Point post office, where Hilbun worked for nearly four years until he was fired for stalking a female employee.

About 150 friends and co-workers of the post office victim, Charles T. Barbagallo, gathered Monday in Dana Point for funeral services. Barbagallo, 42, was remembered as a friendly and helpful veteran mail carrier who talked of world peace and loved Grateful Dead music.

Barbagallo's live-in companion, Mary Jane Galletly, placed some of the blame for his death on the post office. "I appreciate everything the post office has done for us (since the shooting), but this should not have happened," she said. "They could have prevented it."

Hilbun, diagnosed as a manic depressive, allegedly walked into the Dana Point post office about 9:45 a.m. Thursday and shot Barbagallo in the face after he told Hilbun to put his gun down.

Hilbun faced 13 charges in South Orange County Municipal Court: two of murder, seven of attempted murder, two of robbery, one of attempted robbery and one of attempted kidnaping.

The attempted murder charges stem from his shooting and wounding five victims and attempting to hit two others Thursday and Friday, authorities said.

At the post office, Hilbun wounded former co-worker Peter Gates and fired through a locked door at Postmaster Donald Lowe. Minutes afterward, Hilbun allegedly shot and wounded a Dana Point man in his garage. He also is charged with shooting a woman motorist in Newport Beach five times a few hours later.

Early Saturday, shortly before his arrest, Hilbun allegedly shot and wounded two customers at an automated bank teller machine in Fountain Valley. Police say he also tried to fire his weapon at a third customer, but it apparently jammed.

The charge of attempted kidnaping was filed because prosecutors believe Hilbun intended to capture the target of his earlier stalking, letter carrier Kim Springer, 29. Springer, who returned to work Monday, hid under a desk during the post office rampage.

After the not guilty pleas were entered, Barnette ordered Hilbun held without bail and scheduled a preliminary hearing for May 18.

Biggs said outside the courtroom that his client's plea outburst was a surprise.

"Anything that speeds up the process of the prosecutor being able to try to convict my client of a crime for which he could end up on Death Row--that's not a good thing," Biggs said.

A Sheriff's Department spokesman said Hilbun's demand for a speedy arraignment also caught investigators off guard. Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Bob Rivas said authorities had expected a continuance that would provide more time to prepare for the case.

"They've got a lot to do," Rivas said. "It's quite a rush, especially with a case of this magnitude. There's a lot of questions we haven't answered that we need to find out."

Biggs said he is still exploring whether Hilbun should plead not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, Hilbun could face the death penalty.

At the funeral services for Barbagallo, some mourners dressed in brightly colored tie-dyed T-shirts and others wore the blue uniforms of the postal service.

"I can't believe this happened to someone who was dedicated to peace," said Heidi Stalesen, a friend of Barbagallo. "He was the kindest, sweetest man you could ever meet."

She said Hilbun shot his best two friends at the Dana Point office--Barbagallo and Gates, who was wounded when a bullet grazed his head.

"I find it hard to believe that (Hilbun) had to take out the people who were kindest to him," she said. "He is a very troubled man."

Times staff writer Dave Lesher contributed to this story.

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