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Man Gets 25 Years to Life for Murdering Former Girlfriend

Courts: Woman was strangled and stuffed into a box. Judge, to the chagrin of the victim's family, had refused to let jurors consider the death penalty.

March 23, 2000|ANN W. O'NEILL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former CHP dispatcher was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison Wednesday for strangling his former girlfriend and stuffing her, still alive, into a cardboard box, which he later set on fire and kicked into a ravine near Simi Valley.

Anthony Roy Shivers Jr., 32, offered a chilling account of the slow, cruel death of Jeanette Cohen in a graphic note police found in his Studio City apartment.

Despite the defendant's gruesome tale, the jury that convicted him of first-degree murder earlier this month never had the opportunity to decide whether the crime should be punished by the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Superior Court Judge James M. Ideman ruled that the details of the woman's death did not fit the legal requirements for a special circumstance of torture.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Sterling Norris and the woman's family disagree.

"That four-page note is a graphic description of what torture murder is," Norris said.

Shivers wrote: "Finally, I choked her. She convulsed a couple of times and then she rested. (I thought she was dead.) Then she began grasping my arms for support. I squeezed harder and more consistently. Finally she shook one last time and started turning blue."

"I shoved her into a computer box. Very uncomfortably," Shivers added. "After a few minutes, she began calling my name: 'Anthony, please. Please, Anthony, I can't breathe.' I took a 10 (pound) weight to her skull two to four times."

He wrote that he left her in his apartment while he went out for "a bite to eat" and to buy duct tape to seal the 20-by-24-inch box.

He took the box containing the 5-foot-8, 118-pound woman to Rocky Peak in the Santa Susana Mountains, doused it with gasoline, lighted it and kicked it off a ledge.

"I don't think that Jeanette will hurt anyone else here on earth," Shivers wrote. "I hate her for my pain." The young woman had broken up with Shivers about two weeks before she disappeared.

The box did not burn, but touched off a small brush fire. Firefighters doused the blaze but did not notice the box.

Cohen's mother, Yolanda Roeber, had reported her daughter missing when she failed to show up for a bridal shower. Police returned to the site of the blaze five days later and found the body.

An autopsy showed that Cohen died of head trauma and had been strangled. She was identified by fingerprints.

Facing the woman's family in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Shivers apologized through his attorney "for causing this great painful tragedy." He said it will remain with him for the rest of his days.

A jury took less than a day to convict Shivers of first-degree murder in the August 1997 death of Cohen, who was 28 and lived in Glendale. But Ideman dismissed the special circumstance and excused the jurors.

The dead woman's family begged the judge Wednesday to impose the maximum sentence. Roeber pleaded, "Please protect our family and our society from this man." Brother Ronald Cohen called Shivers "an animal" and said he hoped he would "rot in prison."

Family members also wrote Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, urging him to direct his office to file an appeal to restore the torture special circumstance. They said they believe a jury should have decided whether the victim's death was by torture.

In court, Ideman assured family members that "no parole board would ever be foolish enough to turn a man like this loose."

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