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Killer Would Become Ventura County's 10th on Death Row

March 12, 1998|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If a judge upholds a jury recommendation handed down Wednesday, as is expected, Michael Raymond Johnson will become the 10th man sent to death row from Ventura County since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment.

The other men are all appealing their sentences. None of has an execution date, and prosecutors do not expect any of them to be put to death before the turn of the century.

The convicts are:

* Mark Scott Thornton, then 20, abducted and fatally shot Westlake nurse Kellie O'Sullivan during a Sept. 14, 1993, carjacking. O'Sullivan was on her way to pick up her son from school when Thornton confronted her outside a pet store. He forced her to drive with him to an isolated area in the Santa Monica Mountains, where he shot her in the chest and back.

* Christopher Sattiewhite, then 24, kidnapped and murdered Genoveva Gonzales, whose body was found in an Oxnard drainage ditch on Jan. 26, 1992. The Oxnard mother had been kidnapped by Sattiewhite and a second man, Frederick L. Jackson. Sattiewhite shot her three times in the head after Jackson raped her. Jackson was sentenced to life in prison.

* Gregory Scott Smith, then 23, was convicted in April 1992 of kidnapping, raping and murdering 8-year-old Paul Bailly of Northridge, whose body was set on fire near Simi Valley. A day-care aide from Canoga Park, Smith pleaded guilty to the charges. At his penalty hearing, Smith's lawyers contended that he had the mind of a child and should not be executed. Prosecutors described Smith as a vindictive predator who took sexual pleasure in killing the boy.

* Larry David Davis, then 32, was sentenced to death in 1990 for the rape and murder of 20-year-old local beauty queen Dawn Michelle Holman. Davis kidnapped her from outside an Oxnard grocery store on Aug. 28, 1988. Holman jumped from the moving car and ran onto the San Buenaventura Golf Course, where Davis caught and strangled her.

* Tracy Cain, then 29, was sentenced to death in 1988 for bludgeoning his next-door neighbors, William and Modena Galloway. Cain ran out of money while having a cocaine party and broke into their Oxnard home, where 63-year-old William Galloway was known to keep large sums of cash. Cain beat the couple to death with a rocking chair and took their money.

* Curtis Fauber, then 31, was also sentenced to death in 1988 for a murder involving drugs and money. Fauber and a friend, Brian Buckley, robbed Tom Urell, 52, a business executive who had been selling them drugs, according to court testimony. The assailants broke into Urell's Oxnard Shores home, found him asleep and tied him up with duct tape. Using an ax he found while ransacking the home, Fauber hit Urell in the back of the head and killed him. Buckley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

* Theodore Francis Frank, then 57, was given the death penalty for what has been described as one of the most horrific crimes in Ventura County history: the murder of 2 1/2-year-old Amy Sue Seitz in 1978. The girl was kidnapped from the frontyard of her baby-sitter's house in Camarillo, bound hand and foot, force to drink beer and then raped, tortured and mutilated with locking pliers before being strangled. Her body was dumped in a drainage ditch in Topanga Canyon. Frank was arrested several months later, after molesting an 8-year-old girl in Panorama City. He admitted to assaulting 100 to 150 children of various ages over a 20-year period.

* Robert Cruz McClain, then 52, was sentenced to death in 1981 for raping and fatally shooting a 20-year-old hitchhiker, Joni Donnell Kelley, whose body was dumped in a trash can near Santa Paula. McClain and his 18-year-old nephew, Theodore Willis, raped and shot Kelley. They later kidnapped, raped and killed another woman in Solano County. Willis received life in prison.

* Alejandro Gilbert Ruiz, then 54, was convicted in 1980 of murdering his third wife, Tanya Staats, and later killing his fifth wife, Pauline Wachs, and her teenage son. Staats disappeared in 1974, and Ruiz told police that his wife had left him and that he did not know where she could be found. Three years later, Ruiz's fifth wife and her son, Tony Mitchell, were found buried in a shallow grave in the backyard of their Piru home. They had been shot in the head. Ruiz was convicted of first-degree murder for their deaths. He was also convicted of killing Staats, whose body was never found.

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