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Trial Opens in Killing of Biker and Girlfriend

THE VALLEY

Court: Santa Clarita man is accused of shooting Hells Angels member and companion. Defense says he was just a witness.

June 21, 2001|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The jovial 450-pound Hells Angel and his petite, quiet girlfriend may have seemed an unlikely couple.

But Laurence "Large Larry" Lajeunesse and Tammie Ann Brannigan apparently adored each other. The pair lived in a cluttered converted industrial garage in Chatsworth, where they worked on cars together, took drugs together--and one night in December 1998 died together when both were shot execution-style.

Their alleged killer, Daniel Ray Waring, 44, is on trial in San Fernando Superior Court. The case figures to highlight the culture and ways of the biker gang that authorities say deals drugs and engages in illicit activity.

In opening statements Wednesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Jonas said Waring was a Hells Angel "wannabe" who had been angry for years at the group because he was never allowed into its inner circle. After Waring and Lajeunesse had a falling out over methamphetamine dealing, the Santa Clarita man shot Lajeunesse five times in the head and then killed Brannigan to eliminate her as a witness, Jonas said.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Mark P. Brandt said Waring only witnessed the killings that he said were committed by John Kopp, who later killed himself. Prosecutors contend that Kopp was a witness to the slayings.

Brandt told jurors Kopp was also a drug user who owned many guns, and that after the killings Kopp had tried to get rid of several weapons at a pawn shop.

Kopp's pretrial testimony ended when his body was found with a noose around the neck and the coroner's office determined his death a suicide.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shari Kreisler Silver has yet to rule on whether Kopp's partial testimony will be allowed into evidence. Kopp died before he could be fully cross-examined.

The trial, expected to last five weeks, will feature up to 70 witnesses, including Hells Angels as well as a gang expert expected to testify on the behavior of the group. If convicted, Waring, who turned occasionally to wave at his 13-year-old son in the courtroom, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Prosecutors plan to highlight the defendant's 15 years as a paid informant for the California Highway Patrol. Waring was so filled with hostility toward the Hells Angels, Jonas said, that he repeatedly tried to provide information that would get the group into trouble.

The CHP investigator for whom Waring worked refused to cooperate with prosecutors but is scheduled to testify under subpoena, Jonas said. He said the case also will demonstrate how Waring "abused" the paid-informant system.

The Hells Angels--who Brandt suggests "sanctioned" the killings--has refused to cooperate with either side in the case, and members will only testify because of subpoenas, prosecutors said.

"They are very hush," Brandt said. "They will not tell what happened."

But hundreds of Hells Angels showed up in 1998 to bury Lajeunesse, a 10-year veteran of the group. He was buried a few yards from where Brannigan was laid to rest.

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