A former handyman was sentenced to death Wednesday for the brutal slaying of a Ventura County woman after reading a rambling diatribe, which prosecutors later said amounted to a bizarre confession.
Michael Schultz, 34, said he killed Cynthia Burger a decade ago to avenge the betrayal of six Nazi saboteurs executed in 1942.
Burger's relatives who were seated in the courtroom were stunned. They had expected words of remorse.
Instead, Schultz said there is "blood" on their family name because a German soldier, who he apparently thought was the victim's father, betrayed fellow Nazis during World War II by turning them in and revealing plans for sabotage on U.S. soil. The six soldiers were executed after a military tribunal.
"The rage and paranoid delusions I was having back then, combined with all the methamphetamines in my system, have made me believe the only way to avenge [the executed soldiers] was through what Mr. Burger held dearest to him -- his daughter," Schultz said of his crime a decade ago.
"I wanted to make him feel the pain he brought to so many," Schultz continued. "I am not a white supremacist or an elitist as the prosecution has claimed, merely a tool used to bring vengeance upon the Burger family, to make them aware of the blood their name carried."
Before Wednesday, there was no mention of a nexus between the obscure 1942 case -- which received recent attention in light of the Bush administration's plan to use military tribunals for suspected terrorists -- and the Aug. 5, 1993, slaying of Burger.
At trial, prosecutors argued that Schultz, 34, targeted Burger's townhouse in Port Hueneme with the intent to rob it; then raped Burger, 45, in her bedroom and strangled her so she could not identify him.
However, Schultz's remarks about having "hatred" in his heart at the time of the attack and his condemnation of the Burger name prompted Deputy Dist. Attys. Michael Frawley and Richard Simon to rethink Schultz's motive.
"He just admitted to premeditated, first-degree murder," Frawley said. "From what I gather that he just said, he picked her as revenge for the execution of six Nazis.
"I was in shock when I was listening to this," the prosecutor went on. "It doesn't change [the outcome]. But I'll tell you what, if this ever got sent back for appellate review, that statement would be used as a confession."
Schultz's public defenders declined to comment on their client's remarks or his state of mind. Schultz declined to talk to a probation officer before his sentencing hearing and appeared resigned to his fate in court Wednesday.
"I have thought long and hard about what I would say," Schultz told Superior Court Judge Donald Coleman before launching into his speech. "I can't begin to tell you about the emotions I have experienced, if you should even care. I will begin by stating that the man you are sentencing to death today is not the same who existed 10 years ago."
That man used to harbor an incredible amount of hatred for society and one incident in particular, Schultz said before launching into a historical account of the eight German soldiers dropped off by submarine on American shores in June 1942.
According to a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in that case, the soldiers were trained in sabotage in Berlin and landed on U.S. soil under cover of darkness. Within a month, the eight soldiers were found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death. The two who turned in their cohorts, Ernest Burger and George Dasch, were spared, but the other six were electrocuted.
"The hatred I used to feel has now been transposed to people who feel it right to execute others because we have a law that allows them to," Schultz said.
"I read the probation report of how the Burgers feel I deserve to die and are supporters of the death penalty," he said. "They have not changed their ways since 1942, when Ernest Burger helped the prosecution back then put six of his friends to death."
After Schultz finished reading his handwritten statement, Coleman nodded his head and said with a hint of sarcasm, "Thank you. That was very enlightening." He proceeded to sentence Schultz to death and ordered the former handyman transported to San Quentin State Prison.
Outside the courtroom, Cynthia Burger's sister, Sandra Woodward, said she didn't know whether her family was related to the German soldier referred to by the defendant.
Burger's father, Had Burger, testified during the penalty phase of the trial. Lawyers on Wednesday said he was not the spy Schultz believed him to be.
Woodward said Schultz's remarks only confirmed her opinion of him.
"Where in the world did that come from?" she said. "He is so evil. He is such a sexual predator that it is wonderful that justice has been done and he will not be able to hurt anyone ever again."