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Antelope Valley Ranchers' Killer Gets 32 to Life

September 21, 2002|WENDY THERMOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A judge sentenced a man Friday to 32 years to life in state prison for murdering two Antelope Valley ranchers, and said she would have given Josif Jurcoane the death penalty if he had been eligible for it.

"To me, the defendant is a coward and a serial killer, and in my opinion should receive the death penalty for this," Superior Court Judge Shari K. Silver said as she imposed the maximum sentence for the July 4, 1984 shooting deaths of Lloyd William Bryden, 67, and his companion, Alice B. McCannel, 39.

Jurcoane, 52, stared stonily in the San Fernando courtroom as several friends and relatives of the victims, and even his daughter, gave emotional speeches berating him for the killings.

Choking back tears, Josephine Jurcoane, 22, told Silver that her father must be punished for his actions, which included evading arrest until last year by hiding in Mexico.

"You said you thought you had paid for what you had done by being on the road for 17 years," she angrily told her father, seated 15 feet away. Turning to the judge, she said she hoped for a heavy sentence because "he thinks he has paid, but he hasn't."

The judge praised the daughter for having "the courage and morals" to testify against her father during his trial. "I view you as a heroine," Silver said.

Josephine Jurcoane testified for the prosecution that she remembered the day two neighbors were killed, when she was about 4 years old.

She said she heard gunshots and saw her father come home in his pickup truck and hastily pack his clothes before vanishing for many years from her life.

Authorities said Jurcoane ambushed and killed the ranchers separately on their property after his wife had a dispute with McCannel over the ownership of some farm animals. A few weeks earlier, he had been fired from his job at the ranch.

A San Fernando jury convicted Jurcoane of second-degree murder in the slayings of Bryden and McCannel, who operated the 450-acre Mountain Brook ranch near Palmdale. Jurcoane had worked for the couple as a mechanic and helped manage the ranch.

Prosecutor Rouman Ebrahim said he was barred from seeking the death penalty by an extradition treaty with Mexico, where Jurcoane was arrested. Jurcoane was tried on charges of first-degree murder, but the jury reduced the charges. Silver made it clear she did not agree with their decision.

"I would have convicted you of first-degree murder in two seconds," she said.

The judge sentenced Jurcoane to two consecutive terms of 15 years to life, plus two years for using a firearm.

Madeleine Rungaitis, a friend of McCannel, faced Jurcoane in court and said she wondered how he could look his relatives in the eye, "knowing the evil you have done."

"As hard as it is for your children," she said, "I am sure it will be even harder for them to explain this to your grandchildren."

Defense attorney Arnold Notkoff was the only person to speak on Jurcoane's behalf. He asked for leniency because "it seems like a spur-of-the-moment type of thing, where something snapped."

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