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Babbitt's 'Inner Peace' Recalled at Funeral

May 06, 1999| From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Manuel Babbitt was remembered Wednesday as a war hero who turned his life around in prison, was concerned about others and bravely faced his execution in San Quentin's death chamber.

"The dignity with which he dealt with the angry machine that was determined to kill him showed all of us what we really strive for--inner peace," said Jessica McGuire, one of Babbitt's attorneys.

About 100 relatives, friends and even some passersby attended a funeral Mass for Babbitt, 50, who was executed by injection early Tuesday for the 1980 murder of Leah Schendel, 78, of Sacramento.

A poster-size portrait of a young Babbitt in Marine fatigues and helmet stood at the front of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Babbitt's mother, Josephine Santiago, hugged and kissed the picture before the service.

"It hurts to see a child go," she said, sobbing.

In other reminders of Babbitt's service in Vietnam, an American flag covered his coffin and a bugler played taps as pallbearers waited to load the coffin into a hearse.

Another attorney, Musawwir Spiegel, a senior deputy state public defender, said it would be easy for Babbitt's friends and relatives to be angry with the courts or Gov. Gray Davis, who refused to reduce Babbitt's sentence to life in prison.

But he urged mourners to "flood your hearts with peace, as Manny did."

Babbitt was sentenced to death for breaking into Schendel's apartment in December 1980 and beating her. She died of a heart attack. Babbitt said he did not remember what happened then or during a subsequent attack on another Sacramento woman.

Family members and Babbitt's attorneys said he had a history of mental illness and was experiencing a flashback to his Vietnam War days during the assaults. Babbitt received a Purple Heart in prison for wounds suffered at the siege of Khe Sanh, one of the bloodiest battles in the war.

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