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Man Sentenced to 2 Life Terms in Fatal Shooting of Witnesses

Kenneth Leighton was convicted of ordering the execution-style deaths of a West Hills couple who were to testify against him.

March 28, 2003|Denise M. Bonilla | Times Staff Writer

A man convicted of ordering the deaths of two witnesses against him was sentenced Thursday to two life sentences without parole.

Kenneth Leighton, 39, of Valencia was convicted March 12 in the execution-style shootings of Jamie Navaroli, 36, and his girlfriend, April Mahoney, 25. The couple, who were to testify against Leighton in a burglary case, were shot outside their West Hills home Nov. 4, 1998. Navaroli died at the scene, and Mahoney died later of her injuries.

According to testimony, Leighton mistakenly thought a burglary conviction would count as a third strike against him, resulting in a life term in prison. Police believe that Leighton enlisted Randall Williams to kill the couple before they could testify against him.

Leighton and Williams went to trial together, but with separate juries, in 2001. The Williams case ended in a hung jury.

Leighton, after being convicted, was granted a new trial when Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Duarte was found to have altered a witness' statement without notifying defense attorneys.

At Thursday's sentencing in the courtroom of Judge Larry Fidler, Navaroli's two oldest children and Mahoney's sister, read statements.

"They were confronting [Leighton] and were basically telling him, 'You'll never know how much you have hurt us,' " Deputy Dist. Atty. Douglas Sortino said.

Leighton did not make a statement at the hearing. His attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Navaroli's father, Elmo, said that although he was pleased with Leighton's sentence, he was saddened that Jamie will not see his children graduate from high school and college.

"He deprived me of a son and [Jamie's] children of a father," he said. "I hope for his sake he will think more about what he has done, and how he has destroyed the family."

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