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Death row inmate dies of natural causes

Thomas Francis Edwards, 65, was convicted of the 1981 killing of a 12-year-old Orange County girl. 'Justice hasn't been served but at least there will be no more appeals,' victim's father says.

February 18, 2009|Carol J. Williams

The killer of a 12-year-old Orange County girl who has spent 22 years fighting execution has died on death row, escaping what the victim's father termed "the justice the world deserved."

Thomas Francis Edwards, 65, died of natural causes Saturday at San Quentin State Prison's medical facility, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported Monday.

Edwards was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1981 shooting of Vanessa Iberri in Cleveland National Forest, where the girl and a friend, Kelly Cartier, were on a camping trip with Iberri's mother. Cartier also was shot but survived.

Despite a lengthy trial in 1983 and three death-penalty phases over the next three years, Edwards' motivation for shooting the girls, who were complete strangers to him, never clearly emerged.

The victim's father, Joseph Iberri of Oceanside, cheered that his only child's killer was now "burning in hell with Satan."

"An example hasn't been set and justice hasn't been served but at least there will be no more appeals," said Iberri, a house painter who has closely followed Edwards' journey through the legal system.

"There's no closure with this. I hope he suffered, because if he didn't, there won't be the justice the world deserved," Iberri said.

Iberri's campaign to see his daughter's killer executed despite the dysfunctional capital punishment system was the subject of a Page 1 story in The Times in November.

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carol.williams@latimes.com

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