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Ventura County Jury Votes Death Sentence for Killer

March 21, 1995|DWAYNE BRAY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — Deliberating for just seven hours on one of the biggest murder cases in Ventura County history, a jury Monday condemned 20-year-old Mark Scott Thornton to death for abducting and shooting a Westlake nurse during a carjacking in September, 1993.

The Thousand Oaks man, who could become the youngest man on California's Death Row, stared straight ahead and displayed little emotion as Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath announced the verdict to an overflow courtroom.

As guards and defense attorneys escorted him from the courtroom, Thornton turned toward news photographers and waved goodby.

Prosecutors and members of the family of victim Kellie O'Sullivan smiled broadly after the jury's decision was read.

"It was the right verdict," Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael K. Frawley said. "He doesn't have a conscience. He doesn't put any value on human life."

"We will put this to bed," said Cliff O'Sullivan Sr., the victim's former husband and father of their 6-year-old son. "My son's opinion was that Thornton should be taken out to the woods and shot the same way Kellie was," O'Sullivan said. "I agree with him, of course."

In December, the same jury convicted Thornton of premeditated first-degree murder and a special circumstance that made him eligible for the death penalty. At an April 17 hearing, Judge McGrath can accept the verdict or reduce it to the only other option: life in prison without parole.

In his only courtroom comments, Thornton told the judge to sentence him without delay.

Outside court, jurors said they chose the death penalty for Thornton because of the aggravated nature of the crime.

O'Sullivan disappeared on her way to pick up her son from school Sept. 14, 1993. Court testimony revealed that a gun-toting Thornton confronted her outside a pet store and forced her to drive off with him in her Ford Explorer.

He drove O'Sullivan to a remote part of the mountains and ordered her into an overgrown area, where he shot her once in the chest and twice in the back.

Thornton never took the stand. Defense attorneys argued that he had a learning disability and was neglected by drug-abusing parents.

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