A spurned ex-boyfriend was found guilty Tuesday of killing a Placentia woman and shooting her new boyfriend as they drove home from a McDonald's before heading to their weekly Bible study.
Jurors deliberated 10 hours before convicting Richard Joseph Namey, 27, of murder, attempted murder, carjacking and auto theft. The Tustin man faces up to 80 years to life in prison.
"The verdict is a relief, but the pain is still there," said Martha Dewar, the mother of victim Sarah Jennifer Rodriguez, 21. "What he did is just unforgivable."
The verdict was announced just before noon in Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey's Santa Ana courtroom.
Rodriguez's new boyfriend, Matthew Reid Corbett, then 20, was left blind in one eye and paralyzed from the chest down after the shooting April 16, 2003. She had dated Corbett in high school. She then dated Namey for about a year before reuniting with Corbett.
"I still always go back and do the 'what if' thing," said Corbett, of Westminster. "I always think of ways I could have made things better for Sarah."
Since his girlfriend's death, he has worn a black and silver pendant of an angel, arms outstretched. Sitting in his wheelchair after the verdict was announced, Corbett said he felt Rodriguez's presence in the courtroom.
"Knowing that this jerk got what he deserved," Corbett said, "she can rest peacefully now."
In the weeks before her death, she wrote in her diary that Namey was threatening her and that she feared he would kill her, according to testimony. She obtained a temporary restraining order against him.
"I don't blame Sarah one bit for trying to get away from this guy," her brother, 26-year-old Jorge Rodriguez, said Tuesday.
"I'm proud of her for standing up to him and trying to break the chain of violence."
He and the dozens of family members who paced the courtroom hallways while the jury deliberated plan to return Nov. 19 for Namey's sentencing.
Dewar said she and her daughter were especially close, living and working together at the preschool where the young woman was a teacher's aide.
Her daughter's wide smile and cheerful personality sometimes made her seem more like one of the children, her mother said.
"She could light up a room," Dewar said. "I don't have that in my house anymore."
Namey testified during the weeklong trial that he shot the couple out of passion, not cold, calculated intent. His attorney, Senior Deputy Public Defender John Zitny, had been hoping for a manslaughter verdict.
"While he did do the shooting, it was driven by his emotions," Zitny said after the verdict. "He had been hoping the jury would understand what his emotional state was at the time."
Namey said in court that he had planned to go that afternoon to Rodriguez's house to commit suicide in front of her, in despair over their breakup.
When he saw her with Corbett, he said, he snapped and shot the couple as they sat in Rodriguez's car two blocks from her home.
Prosecutor Dennis Conway said Namey's excuses rang false.
"It's probably every parent's worst nightmare that their daughter would date a person like this guy," Conway said.
"His giant ego couldn't stand that this girl would try to do what thousands of people do every day: break off a relationship."