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Man Gets Life in Killings of Father, Girlfriend

January 29, 2003|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

A Reseda man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole for strangling his girlfriend, fatally shooting his Emmy-winning father and then trying to shoot a housemate during what prosecutors called a 10-hour "rampage of violence."

Matthew Marky, a former sound engineer, was convicted last month of two counts of murder with the special circumstance of multiple murders and assault with a deadly weapon. The Van Nuys jury also returned guilty verdicts on charges that the 33-year-old used a gun to kill his father and was a felon in possession of a firearm.

"This case is a tragic example of what drug addiction can do," criminal defense attorney James E. Blatt said outside of court. "It can lead to a complete and utter destruction of lives, and that is what occurred here.

"The real killer," Blatt said, "is drugs."

Marky, who was on probation at the time of his arrest, was addicted to crack cocaine, according to his attorney.

He also had a string of convictions for theft, robbery and other crimes that probation officials described as "increasingly serious."

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John S. Fisher imposed the mandatory sentence after listening to testimony from the victims' families.

Angelina Montenegro said her younger sister, Maria Ruiz-Smeriglio, 47, who worked as a beer brewer, was strong and independent with a zest for life before she began a romantic relationship with Marky seven months before her death.

Marky "overpowered" Ruiz-Smeriglio and "broke her spirit," Montenegro said. She urged the judge to impose the most severe penalty possible.

But Rosemary Marky blamed drugs for her son's violent behavior, saying he and the others who lived next door in Ruiz-Smeriglio's house acted "crazy." She asked the judge to take that into consideration and show leniency.

"I plead that you take away the 'without parole' " part of the sentence," Rosemary Marky said as her son sat with his head bowed at the counsel table.

He later grinned and thanked his mother for her remarks as he was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs.

An eyewitness testified at trial that he saw Marky strangle Ruiz-Smeriglio in her bedroom on Aug. 5, 2001, and then fled the house in fear.

Deputy Dist. Attys. Dale Cutler and Dmitry Gorin alleged that Marky killed his live-in girlfriend in retaliation for a fight a few weeks earlier when she kicked him while he lay unconscious. Marky later learned of the attack from another housemate.

Hours after police and paramedics removed Ruiz-Smeriglio's body from her house in the 18900 block of Valerio Street, William Marky invited his son to drink beer with him in the backyard. The 63-year-old was drunk after 10 years of sobriety, prosecutors said.

At the time, Los Angeles police believed what Marky had told them -- that he had found Ruiz-Smeriglio unconscious in her bedroom and she had died of an apparent drug overdose. An autopsy later revealed that she was strangled.

However, prosecutors alleged that the elder Marky, a Vietnam veteran and sound engineer who won an Emmy in 1982 for his work on the television series "Hill Street Blues," suspected that his son had something to do with the woman's death. The father confronted his son about it.

At some point, prosecutors say, William Marky went into the house to retrieve his favorite handgun, a .380 Beretta.

Minutes later, authorities said, Marky shot his father in the eye with the weapon, killing him instantly.

Marky ran next door to Ruiz-Smeriglio's house, wrapped the murder weapon in toilet paper and hid it in the attic, according to prosecutors.

Scott Hinkley, a third housemate, testified that Marky tried to shoot him in the head but the gun misfired, allowing Hinkley to escape to a bathroom until police arrived.

Blatt mounted a vigorous defense for his client. He accused someone else of strangling Ruiz-Smeriglio, then argued that William Marky fired the first shot, forcing his son to act in self-defense. Blatt also denied that Marky put a gun to Hinkley's head, accusing the victim of being high on drugs and having hallucinations.

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