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Man Gets Life Without Parole in His 3rd Trial for '93 Long Beach Killing

October 14, 2006|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

A 29-year-old Long Beach man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for the 1993 shooting death of a Cal State Long Beach graduate student.

In a statement to the victim's family read to the court, Leif Taylor -- whose previous conviction in the case was overturned by an appeals court -- again denied that he had anything to do with the death of William Shadden, who was killed on Memorial Day 1993 in Belmont Shore.

"I am sorry for your losses, sorry he is no longer amongst the living," said Taylor's lawyer, Matthew P. Fletcher, reading from Taylor's handwritten statement.

"Unfortunately, I don't believe I should be sacrificed for that loss.... I did not shoot Mr. Shadden," Fletcher read, as Taylor sat silently next to him.

Shadden's mother, Sandi, told the court in her own statement that her son would have turned 40 on Oct. 5, and the family would have celebrated with a chocolate cake. "I wonder if he would have long hair, a beard, have put on a few pounds, maybe married and had children," she said. She would not know, she said, because "Leif Taylor decided to take the life of my son over a $15 bike."

It was Taylor's third trial in the murder case: A Long Beach jury found him guilty in July, after another panel in January had failed to reach a verdict. He had been found guilty in 1994, but that conviction was reversed two years ago when a federal appeals court ruled that Long Beach police had coerced his confession.

Shadden, 26, a graduate student in English at Cal State Long Beach, was fatally shot May 31, 1993, as he bicycled home from his part-time job as a gondolier on the city's canals. Taylor was arrested three months later. Police had developed leads from tips received after offering a $10,000 reward.

The killing fueled fears of crime in the city and was invoked for years by residents and city officials promoting anti-crime measures.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' 2004 opinion voiding Taylor's first conviction called police conduct in the case "unjustified and distasteful," and noted the lack of any physical evidence or witnesses against Taylor.

In the most recent trial, a onetime friend of Taylor testified that Taylor had confessed to him when the crime was reported in newspapers.

In sentencing Taylor on Thursday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet Cassani said she found no possibility of a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.

"I believe without any doubt the defendant went out to steal a bike. He not only took a gun, he took a loaded gun, which indicates intent and premeditation," the judge said.

Fletcher said Taylor, who has been in prison since he was 16, would appeal.

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