South L.A. serial rapist Latece Megale Brown, right, seated next to his… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
A convicted South Los Angeles serial rapist was sentenced to death Thursday for sexually assaulting and suffocating a 16-year-old girl, whose body was wrapped in a comforter, set ablaze and dumped in an alley.
Latece Megale Brown, 41, smiled and laughed as he spoke to his lawyers in a downtown courtroom during a hearing at which a judge described the 2003 killing as a "cold, vicious murder."
L.A. County Superior Court Judge Bob S. Bowers Jr. noted that the 6-foot-4-inch Brown, who weighed about 450 pounds when he was arrested, intentionally sat on the victim, Jacquiese Williams, until she was dead. Williams was about 5 feet 6 and 115 pounds.
The judge also recited a lengthy list of other crimes attributed to Brown since 1988, including an assault on a police officer, the rape of a cellmate and a robbery he committed as a teenager during which he stabbed his victim and cut off part of his earlobe.
"I hope he is tortured as he tortured my granddaughter," Williams' grandmother, Clara Owens, told the judge before sentencing. "God, please forgive me, but that's how I feel."
Among those at Thursday's hearing were several members of the jury that convicted Brown of murdering Williams and attacking five other victims. Two of his victims also were present. One of them told reporters outside the courtroom that she had hoped to hear Brown express remorse but was struck instead by his smirking and laughing. The Times ordinarily does not name victims or alleged victims in sexual assault cases, but she asked that the newspaper publish her first name.
"Seeing him with no remorse makes me feel like the sentence was justified and appropriate," said Andrea, a nursing student who flew from Houston to attend the hearing.
Andrea, 30, said she had felt goose bumps watching Brown in the courtroom. Her April 2002 attack left her feeling suicidal. She began using drugs, she said, and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. She credited prayer and church with helping straighten out her life in the wake of the ordeal.
"I feel like God has given me a chance to live and to tell the story," she said.
Franklin Peters Jr., one of Brown's attorneys, said after the hearing that his client was not laughing at anything related to the case but at a personal matter. He declined to detail what Brown was talking about at the time.
"We were sharing some personal things and family things," Peters said. "He was smiling about that. It had nothing to do with the proceedings, which he took very seriously."
Williams, who lived in Las Vegas and loved hip-hop dancing and singing, was in Los Angeles visiting her father when she was killed. Her body was found Oct. 24, 2003, in an alley near the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways. She had been tied up and gagged. Her head was covered with a plastic bag.
Authorities said one of the surviving victims gave a detailed description of her attacker that helped lead detectives to Brown. While assaulting that victim, Brown mentioned his own teenage daughter and displayed a tattoo of her name on his stomach. Brown's DNA was linked to most of the attacks, including Williams' slaying, said Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide Det. Eddie Brown, who is not related to the defendant.
The detective said investigators also matched the comforter to other bedding found in Brown's bedroom, where authorities believe he killed Williams before dumping her body. Brown's cousin testified that the defendant told him he sat on Williams until he realized she was dead, the detective said.
During the trial earlier this year, Brown denied killing Williams. He also denied the sexual assault charges and claimed he had had consensual sex with the victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 25.
Jurors rejected his claims, convicting him of raping four women in addition to Williams. They also found him guilty of kidnapping another woman with the intent to rape her. She managed to escape by jumping out of his car.
That victim, who also asked The Times to use her first name, Shanna, said she was lucky to survive.
"He was going to kill me too," she said. "He deserves to rot in jail until he goes to his death…. Justice was served today."
Brown's attorney said his client contends he was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.
"Obviously, he hopes that the appellate courts will remedy that at a later date," Peters said.
Jurors deadlocked on a charge that Brown also murdered one of the other sexual assault victims. Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Silverman said her office has yet to decide whether to retry Brown on that charge.