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Death Penalty Ordered in Torture Case

Courts: After hearing pleas from victim's mother, judge sentences Spencer Brasure--who burned, shocked and stapled a man before killing him--to die.

August 25, 1998|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Convicted killer Spencer Brasure was sentenced to death Monday after the victim's mother urged the judge to impose the most severe sentence possible for the brutal torture-murder of her only son--a crime which the defendant later bragged and laughed about.

"He enjoyed it, he wanted him to suffer," Lee Anderson cried out in court, lashing out at her son's killer seated a few feet away.

"There is only one just decision in this case--only one," she said. "And that is the jury's decision for death."

Choking back tears, Anderson said it would have been different if Brasure, 28, of Hawthorne, had only shot her son.

But what he did was far more personal.

On Sept. 7, 1996, Brasure and an accomplice kidnapped Anthony Guest, tied him to a chair, and tortured him for several hours.

Evidence presented at Brasure's trial showed that he burned Guest with a propane torch, shocked him with electric current, and drove metal staples into his head.

The next morning, Brasure and the accomplice drove Guest to a remote campground near Gorman where they doused him with gasoline and set him on fire with a road flare.

Brasure later bragged about the murder to his friends.

Prosecutors said Brasure and his alleged accomplice, Billy Davis, 21, of Hawthorne, kidnapped Guest as a favor to a female friend.

She briefly dated Guest, a 20-year-old Redondo Beach resident, and wanted Brasure to beat him up after the pair separated. During the trial, the woman testified that she had no idea what Brasure ultimately would do to Guest.

Davis is also charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and is set to stand trial later this year.

Last month, Brasure was found guilty of first-degree murder, torture and related offenses. After a weeklong penalty proceeding, the same jury decided Brasure should be executed.

Although most of the crimes occurred in Los Angeles County, the case was tried in Ventura County because that is where the murder took place.

At a sentencing hearing Monday, defense attorneys Charles Cassy and Steve Powell asked Superior Court Judge James P. Cloninger to reduce Brasure's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But prosecutor Robert Calvert argued that the circumstances of the crime warrant a death sentence. Calvert urged the judge to impose the jury's recommendation and send Brasure to death row.

After taking a four-hour break to weigh the decision, Cloninger concurred.

"The defendant's treatment of Anthony Guest was savage, barbarous, merciless and cruel," the judge said, citing evidence that Brasure reveled in the killing.

"Mr. Brasure displays a depth of depravity which is, fortunately, quite rare," he said.

Cloninger denied a request by the defense for a new trial.

Brasure is scheduled to be transported to San Quentin prison at the end of the week. He is the 11th killer sent to death row from Ventura County since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978.

Prosecutors presented evidence at the trial that Brasure tried to have witnesses in his case killed before a preliminary hearing more than a year ago.

The jury saw letters Brasure sent from his jail cell that identified "rats" that he said "have to be killed ASAP." The panel found Brasure guilty on three counts of witness intimidation in addition to the other charges.

At the hearing Monday, Anderson stood before Cloninger wearing her son's red hockey jersey and pleaded for justice.

"This is the only thing that I have left of my son," she said, crying and grabbing the folds of the jersey.

She wept as she recalled the fights she had with her son over his drug use. Anderson kicked Guest out of her house, hoping that it would force him to get clean. Now, she said, she regrets that decision.

"Now I have to live with the fact that I put my son out on the street so that he could kill him," she said, turning and pointing at Brasure.

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