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After waiting 27 years, California man dies without seeing daughter's killer executed

George Cullins, 88, decried the slowness of death penalty appeals as he awaited the execution of serial killer Dean Phillip Carter, who remains on death row for four murders in 1984.

March 09, 2011|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Diego — George Cullins, whose daughter was murdered by serial killer Dean Phillip Carter in 1984, has died without seeing his most fervent wish come to pass: Carter's execution.

Cullins, 88, a retired Marine Corps officer, died last week in the Antelope Valley of complications from injuries he suffered in a traffic accident in October. His wife, Helen, remains hospitalized.

After the 1984 murder of his 24-year-old daughter, Janette, Cullins became an activist in favor of the death penalty and victims' rights. His daughter was raped and strangled in her apartment in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego.

As the years after Carter's conviction dragged on, Cullins became dismayed with the judicial system and what he saw as its failure to carry through on court-ordered executions. "The death penalty is just another term for a long period of incarceration," he told the judge at Carter's sentencing hearing.

Carter, now 55, remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison for the murder of Cullins and the 1984 murders of three other women — two Culver City roommates and their friend from West Los Angeles.

He was sentenced to death in 1984 for the L.A.-area murders and in 1991 for the San Diego County murder. Carter also was convicted of murdering a woman in Oakland along with the four others during a three-week period in 1984.

"I think the death penalty is well warranted in this particular case," San Diego County Superior Court Judge Melinda Lasater said in accepting the jury's order that Carter be executed for the sexual attack and murder of Janette Cullins.

Cullins was billed $65 by San Diego County for the cost of taking his daughter's body to the county morgue. The bill led to public outrage and a change in county policy and state law.

When Carter's case was heard by the California Supreme Court, George and Helen Cullins were in the front row of the courtroom.

Cullins wrote innumerable letters and op-ed articles decrying the slowness of death penalty appeals, a process that he thought only inflicted agony on the families of murder victims.

When a reporter from the North (San Diego) County Times went to the Cullins' home for an interview in 1998, a large picture of Janette Cullins was on the wall, with the motto, "Don't stop until the job is completed."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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