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California and the West

Victims' Families Oppose Clemency for Killer

Crime: 'A lethal injection is far too kind,' a relative says of the penalty for Darrell Rich, who assaulted nine women and girls and killed four in 1978.

March 07, 2000|BETTINA BOXALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — In the summer of 1978, Darrell Keith Rich went on a violent rampage in Shasta County, sexually assaulting nine women and girls and murdering four of them, leaving two of their bodies at a dump.

Monday, sobbing relatives told a state board that it was Rich's turn to die, and that they were sorry his death would be swifter and less brutal than those of his victims.

"A lethal injection is far too kind," said Burton Adams, the brother of teenager Patricia Ann Moore, whom Rich beat to death with a rock. "Maybe we should take him to that dump and use that rock."

Rich, 45, is one of the longest-standing residents of California's crowded death row. He was sent to San Quentin in January 1981, after he was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and one of second-degree murder in the homicides of Moore, 17, Annette Fay Edwards, 19, Linda Diane Slovik, 28, and Annette Lynn Selix, 11.

He is scheduled to die by lethal injection just after midnight March 15. One court after another has rejected his appeals.

Monday his fate was argued before the state Board of Prison Terms, which will make a recommendation for or against clemency to Gov. Gray Davis, who has given the go-ahead to two executions since taking office.

A number of anti-death penalty activists spoke briefly on Rich's behalf, but no family members or attorneys appeared for the inmate.

One of his attorneys, James S. Thomson of Berkeley, said in a telephone interview that Rich's representatives chose not to attend the board meeting out of respect for the victims' families and because they have presented their arguments in writing to Davis.

Rich, who says he is part Cherokee and has adopted the name "Young Elk" in prison, confessed to the crimes but contended at his 1980 trial that he was legally insane when he committed them, unable to comprehend the gravity of his deeds.

In pleading for his life, his attorneys have argued that Rich is no longer a threat to society, has been well-behaved during his long imprisonment and deeply regrets his summer of violence.

"He has always been remorseful for what he [did]," Thomson said. "He confessed to every crime he was convicted of early on. . . . He's been an excellent inmate."

That meant little to the families of Rich's murder victims and to survivors of his sexual assaults.

They called him an animal, a man of evil desires who had shown no mercy and deserves none.

"Her father and I still lie awake at night and weep," said Twyla Yates, the gray-haired mother of Slovik.

Married and the mother of a 9-year-old boy, Slovik went to a Chico bar with a girlfriend and never returned. Her parents hired a private detective, thinking she had perhaps been kidnapped by a cult.

Two weeks later her body was found at a Shasta County garbage dump. She had been shot twice in the head.

At Monday's hearing, as Annette Selix's aunt spoke, she held a framed photograph of her niece, a longhaired girl in a dress. She said Annette's mother plays her child's death over and over in her mind.

"She sees her baby abducted, sodomized, raped and tortured until she was finally thrown from a bridge while still alive," said the aunt, Linda Hines. "Her final moment was to curl in a fetal position."

Rich kidnapped the child while she was walking to buy groceries in Cottonwood, where Rich also lived. After sexually assaulting her, he drove her to a bridge on Interstate 5 and threw her to the rocks more than 100 feet below.

"We've all had 22 years of suffering," Hines said. "I'm here to plead for mercy, certainly not for Darrell Rich, but for us, the families of all his victims. . . . Execute him and let him go to hell."

Selix's stepfather, David Tidwell, told the board, "That girl was 11 years old. She didn't even know what sex was. . . . I never thought that I'd want to see a person die . . . but he put so much hate in me."

One of Rich's surviving victims said he had stolen her dignity and her capacity to trust. "He has taken my ability to live in peace," she said.

In a letter read on behalf of another survivor, the woman said she cannot rid herself of Rich's memory. "We are never alone," she wrote of herself and her husband. "Darrell Rich is always there between us. He is less than animal. He is despicable."

Members of anti-death penalty groups countered that nothing would be gained by taking Rich's life.

"By executing Darrell Rich we are teaching our children we can solve problems by killing people," said John Marsh, chairman of California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty.

Rich would be the ninth person executed since the death penalty was reinstated in California more than two decades ago. There are 564 people on death row, more than in any other state.

Rich, who has a grown son, bragged to friends at the time of the crimes that "once you've killed, you can always kill again." Authorities became suspicious of him when he reported coming upon two bodies at a dump. He confessed after he was taken into custody.

"To even the most hardened eye, the crimes were almost unimaginably brutal--savage attacks on defenseless young women, all sexually ravaged," wrote a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge in a 1999 opinion upholding Rich's conviction.

The state board went into closed session to make its recommendation on Rich's fate, which it will forward in secret to Davis.

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