Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Slaying, Trial Tear Families Apart

Justice: A Moorpark man is sentenced to 40 years to life in prison for shooting his brother-in-law to death last year.

September 12, 2000|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It took only a few seconds for Paul Myers to squeeze six rounds into the back of his brother-in-law last summer during an argument over a Nintendo game.

But for the two families ripped apart by those bullets--in-laws who once shared a family but now sit in bitter silence at opposite ends of a courtroom--the pain is unceasing.

Their sorrow punctuated a sentencing hearing in Ventura County Superior Court on Monday in which Myers, a 29-year-old Army deserter convicted of second-degree murder, was ordered to serve 40 years to life in prison.

Myers fatally shot his brother-in-law, 26-year-old Jason Weaver of Granada Hills, in August 1999 during an argument outside Myers' parents' Moorpark home.

In court Monday, Al Weaver, the victim's father, described the devastating loss of his only son and asked Judge Donald Coleman to show no leniency in sentencing Myers.

"The defendant didn't just kill Jason that day," Weaver said, fighting tears as he rested his hands on a court lectern. "Never again will I hear someone call me 'Dad.' "

Mary Lou Weaver told Coleman that not a day passes in which she isn't reminded of her son's "senseless murder."

She described a rift that has divided two families and turned two grandchildren into pawns. And she lashed out at the defense for portraying her son as the instigator of the deadly Aug. 11, 1999, fight.

"I only hope we can remember who the real victim is today," she said. "It was Jason who was shot in the back of the head."

As Mary Lou Weaver spoke, Myers, unshaven and dressed in a shabby blue jail uniform, rocked back and forth in a chair and stared straight ahead.

During the trial, the defense portrayed Myers as a mentally unstable man who felt threatened by Weaver, a 6-feet-4, 275-pound auto detailer. Myers testified that he was scared of Weaver and pulled out his father's .38-caliber revolver in self-defense.

But prosecutors said Myers had time to consider his actions and fired at an unarmed victim as he was running away.

Attorney James Blatt urged Coleman on Monday to set aside the jury's second-degree murder verdict and sentence Myers to a lesser charge. But the judge refused.

James Myers, the defendant's father and a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant in the Devonshire Division, also asked Coleman to reduce the prison sentence.

Specifically, he urged Coleman to strike a weapons-enhancement charge that tacked on an additional 25 years-to-life to the sentence, arguing that state lawmakers never intended the measure to punish defendants, like his son, who have no criminal records.

But Coleman said he had no discretion to dismiss the gun enhancement and let it stand.

James Myers also stated that he cared deeply for his son-in-law and mourns his death. Myers said there has been no attempt to keep the grandchildren from the Weavers and added: "We never, ever created a chasm between these two families."

In handing down the sentence, Coleman said he wished he had the power to bring the two families back together and hoped that, for the sake of the two grandchildren, the parents could find a way to move on.

Recognizing Myers' mental problems, Coleman requested that the Department of Corrections house him in a mental facility. At trial, James Myers testified that Paul was increasingly mentally unstable and that he had asked his son to get help.

Coleman said he didn't understand why more wasn't done to help Myers. He questioned why family members had not reported him absent without leave from the Army and wondered out loud how anyone could have allowed Myers access to guns.

James Myers kept three guns hidden in an unlocked closet inside the family's home.

"Sometimes," Coleman said, "we love our children too much."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|