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Killer of Women in '88, '98 Gets Life Term

November 07, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

Kenneth Dean Hunt, who was convicted of raping and murdering two Westside women a decade apart, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Tuesday.

Hunt, 35, was convicted in March of killing Myra Davis, 71, in July 1988 and Jean Orloff, 60 in March 1998.

Two juries deadlocked on whether to recommend the death penalty, and prosecutors decided against a third penalty phase trial.

Davis, an actor who had worked as Janet Leigh's double in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Psycho," was raped and strangled in her home.

Hunt, then 22, was her handyman and neighbor, and Davis' granddaughter had told police that he should be checked. Instead, the Los Angeles Police Department detective investigating the case focused on Davis' grandson, who was never charged.

Ten years later, a few miles from Davis' home, Orloff was found naked and dead in her apartment. Hunt had also worked as a handyman for her.

A coroner's investigator and an LAPD sergeant determined that Orloff, a smoker, had died of a heart attack. Her body had been shipped to a mortuary for cremation when a second coroner's investigator was called to complete paperwork.

That person concluded that Orloff had not died of natural causes, but had been strangled and raped. Had a county health department employee not ensured that paperwork was in order before the cremation, both killings would be unsolved.

A tip from a relative to Hunt's parole officer ultimately linked him to the killings. Hunt had also served time in prison for manslaughter in the death of another of his neighbors.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Gilligan said Hunt's life sentence was "somewhat bittersweet," because he and co-prosecutor Laura Jane Kessner had twice sought the death penalty.

The first jury deadlocked 11 to 1 for the death penalty, and the second panel was 10 to 2 in favor.

"I believe 21 of the 24 jurors who heard the evidence voted for the death penalty," Gilligan said Tuesday. "The important thing is the he's convicted and the public is safe from Mr. Hunt."

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