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10-Year Murder Case Ends With Lawyer's Conviction

March 16, 1994|LEE ROMNEY and DAVAN MAHARAJ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SANTA ANA — Ten years to the day after his arrest, a Westminster attorney was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder for ordering the executions of three people, ending Orange County's longest murder case.

This was the second trial for Thomas F. Maniscalco, 49, who holds the record for the longest stay in the Orange County Men's Central Jail, where he has gained recognition as an inmate rights advocate.

"I don't understand the verdicts. It's very bizarre," Maniscalco whispered to his attorney as they were read.

A Superior Court jury deliberated for 24 days--two days short of matching Maniscalco's previous jury in 1990--before finding him guilty of three counts of second-degree murder. More than a week ago, jurors had indicated they were deadlocked, but the judge ordered them to resume deliberating.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Kathleen E. O'Leary is scheduled to set a sentencing date today. Maniscalco faces a possible term of 16 years to life for each count.

The prosecution alleged that Maniscalco ordered the deaths of biker Richard (Rabbit) Rizzone, 36; Rizzone's bodyguard, Thomas Monahan, 28, and Rizzone's girlfriend, Rena Miley, 19. They were shot repeatedly in Rizzone's Westminster home on Memorial Day, 1980. Miley, the daughter of a now-retired Los Alamitos police officer, also was raped.

Prosecutors said Maniscalco, co-founder of the Hessians biker gang, ordered Rizzone killed because he suspected that Rizzone was skimming proceeds from the gang's alleged drug and counterfeiting business. Monahan and Miley were killed to eliminate witnesses, prosecutors contended.

Defense attorneys said Maniscalco is innocent and was framed by an admitted gunman who stole drugs and money from the victims and then tried to finger Maniscalco in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

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