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Rapist Is Convicted in Deaths of 2 Students

Crime: Parolee confessed to the San Luis Obispo-area slayings and did not testify. Jurors will next decide whether he should be executed.

April 03, 2001|SALLY ANN CONNELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A paroled rapist was convicted Monday of murder, kidnapping and rape in the deaths of two female college students whose bodies were found two years ago, buried on his rural San Luis Obispo property.

Rex A. Krebs, 35, will return to a Monterey County courtroom April 17, when jurors will decide whether they should recommend he be put to death.

Krebs sat quietly as a court official announced that he had been found guilty of all nine felony charges against him: two counts of murder, two of kidnapping to commit murder, three of rape by force, one of burglary and one of sodomy by force.

Jurors deliberated for two days.

Krebs, who had confessed to the crimes, did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses. "We will not--and will never--ask you to excuse this conduct," defense lawyer Patricia Ashbaugh said in closing argument.

But the defense team suggested that their strategy will change during the trial's sentencing phase and that witnesses will be called.

In opening and closing statements to the jury, Krebs' lawyers said their client had suffered a horrible childhood and started fantasizing as an adolescent about raping his mother, who had abandoned him to a life with a violent father. They contended that Krebs acted on his fantasies of dominating women only after drinking alcohol.

Krebs' victims were Rachel Newhouse, 20, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student from Irvine who disappeared while walking home from a downtown bar Nov. 12, 1998, and Aundria Crawford, 20, a Cuesta College student from Clovis who was abducted from her home March 11, 1999. Their bodies were found buried on Krebs' property in April 1999, after Krebs led investigators to their shallow graves.

In a confession played before jurors last week, Krebs, who had been convicted of two rapes in 1987 and served 10 years in prison, said that he did not intend to kill Newhouse, but did lie in wait for her atop a railroad bridge in downtown San Luis Obispo. When she came across, he said he knocked her out and dragged her to his truck.

At an abandoned A-frame in a rural canyon between Avila Beach and San Luis Obispo, Krebs raped Newhouse, according to his confession. He left her hogtied after the attack, and stepped away for a glass of whiskey. When he returned, he said, he found that she had strangled on her ropes while struggling to get free.

In Crawford's case, Krebs stalked her and broke into her San Luis Obispo duplex, taking her to his home. When he fell asleep later, Crawford managed to free herself and attempted to flee. Krebs said he woke up and chased her down, and strangled her with a rope because she had seen his face.

In her closing argument, defense attorney Ashbaugh said Krebs had chosen to assist investigators by confessing. "It was he alone who brought closure to the families," Ashbaugh said.

San Luis Obispo Deputy Dist. Atty. John Trice called that suggestion a "cock and bull" story, saying Krebs only confessed when blood evidence connected him to the crime.

Trice reminded jurors that when a person dies during a kidnapping, it is considered first-degree murder under California law.

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