Friday, August 10, 2012

Manuel Cortez

Manuel Cortez
The evening of December 27, 1979 was a cold one. The sky was free from clouds, and the light of the moon and stars was shining brightly off the snow which had made itself a temporary home in the hills surrounding Ashland. The effect made the night seem colder than it actually was and it gave the small southern Oregon tourist com­munity a peaceful quality with a bril­liance all its own.
Then, suddenly, the tranquility of the evening was harshly broken by the loud, terrifying screams coming from the press box which overlooks Southern Oregon State College’s football field.
“Rachel! Oh, Rachel, how could some­one do something like this?” the terror-stricken man cried out. He had disco­vered the cold, mutilated body of 11-year-old Rachel Isser, one of two young girls who had disappeared earlier in the day. The girl who was still missing was Deanna Jackman - the distraught man’s daughter!
Rachel’s body was nude; it was evi­dent that she had been dead for several hours. Numerous lacerations were visi­ble on her body, inflicted by some sharp instrument which accounted for the massive amount of blood on the floor. The girl’s face was swollen and blue, and a white cord was wrapped tightly around her slender neck.
Although Rachel Isser and Deanna Jackman attended separate elementary schools, they became close friends after meeting each other at a Jewish Sabbath school. They regarded their friendship very highly and always looked forward to spending their free time together.
Early on the afternoon of December 27 they decided to play tennis at nearby Hunter Park, where they had played many times before. The two sixth graders left Rachel’s home shortly after 2 p.m., and Rachel told her mother that they would be back in a couple of hours.
About an hour after the girls had left, Mrs. Isser noticed that Rachel had not worn her coat to the park. Since it was a cold afternoon she decided to take the coat to her daughter. Upon arriving at the park, she discovered that Rachel and Deanna were not there. Somewhat worried, she started towards home, her concern growing. It was not like the girls to say they were going somewhere and then not do so, she thought to her­self.
When Rachel and Deanna did not re­turn home for dinner, the parents of both girls became worried. They decided to search the neighborhood, fanning out and taking the most direct route to the park. But there was no sign — of the two children, and their efforts seemed to be in vain. Shortly after 5 p.m. they called the Ashland Police Department and asked for assistance.
Hours passed, and the parents be­came frantic in their efforts to find their daughters. Suddenly Deanna’s father stopped in front of the bleachers at the college stadium. There, lying on the ground in front of him, were two tennis rackets and a can of tennis balls. A sud­den feeling of panic overwhelmed him. As he searched the area of the bleachers thoroughly, he noticed that the door of the press box was slightly ajar. He opened the door and — much to his horror — saw Rachel’s naked body sprawled on the floor. That is when he began to scream.
Police were nearby, aiding in the search, when they heard the frenzied man’s shrieks. When they arrived at the press box. the distraught father was kneeling over Rachel’s body, sobbing. Police found several pieces of Deanna’s clothing there, identified by her father, but Rachel’s clothing was missing.
The search for Deanna continued into the long hours of Thursday night and Friday, but the outlook appeared bleak. Still, nobody had given up hope. Ash­land and nearby Medford Police, Ore­gon State Police. Jackson County Sheriffs Office, and the southern Ore­gon State College campus security police all played a major role in the search for Deanna. More than 50 people participated, and a trained police dog was brought in by Jackson County offic­ers to aid the searchers.
Then, at 3:45 Friday afternoon, the search for Deanna Jackman ended. Her body - completely naked - had been spotted from a helicopter by state police. It was lying in a clearing across from gravel pits on Dead Indian Road, east of Ashland in a lonely, secluded area about six miles from the site where Rachel’s body had been found. From the marks on her body, it appeared to police that she may have been thrown out of a moving car.
“This is the first time in Ashland that we’ve ever had a case like this,” said Police Chief Vic Lively. “We’ve had murders here before, but never child­ren. It’s got us very upset.”
Leads were coming in but so far none had proved helpful in finding a suspect. “At this point we need any information we can get,” Chief Lively said. Lively expressed his fear that the killer might strike again. “The possibility scares me to death,” he said.
Public concern, outrage, and fear continued to grow in the town of 15,000 as police followed up every lead. Never in the history of Ashland had such an unsavory offense been committed. Pa­rents were afraid to let their children go anywhere alone, and most parents took their children to school and picked them up afterwards. Children were escorted to hamburger stands and ice cream shops by their parents; the Ashland Daily Tidings, the local newspaper, changed their circulation schedule so its carriers would not have to be out­doors after dark. Everyone in the com­munity was affected in one way or another, whether it be by grief, sorrow, fear, or outrage.
Ashland was always regarded as a re­laxed, peaceful town, where people would come to enjoy a play at the Ore­gon Shakespearean Festival, to ski the slopes of Mt. Ashland, or to simply enjoy the scenery. But now Ashland had be­come a place of sadness and terror, and so it would remain until the sadistic child slayer could be apprehended and brought to justice.
The next day the state medical examiner’s office, under the direction of Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Larry Lewman, reported that Rachel Isser had died of strangulation.
“She died by a ligature - something tied tightly around the neck - and De­anna Jackman died from traumatic as­phyxiation, due to pressure that was placed over her nose and mouth by a soft object, such as a pillow or a hand,” Lewman noted.
Numerous abrasions and deep cuts were visible on both girls’ bodies, and the cuts were obviously produced by a sharp instrument of some sort - most probably a knife of razor. Marks on Deanna’s body made it appear as if she had been raped and brutally beaten. It looked as if the marks could have been made with a whip or leather belt. Both girls had been vic­iously raped and it was evident they had been tortured prior to their deaths.
“The details of what happened to these girls are certainly gruesome. I have seen individual cases like this in the past,” said Lewman. ‘But this is the first time I have seen the sexual as­saults and murders of two little girls. That’s what makes it a unique and frightening case,” he said. Lewman also stated he felt the Ashland killings were the first of their kind in Oregon.
“We’ve received nearly one hundred leads,” said Chief Lively. “But so far we still do not have a suspect. We have sev­eral pieces of evidence, but no one to link it to. We found fingerprints on one of the tennis rackets that do not belong to the owner, and these are still under analysis at the state crime lab.”
The police continued their search for evidence along Dead Indian Road where Deanna’s body was found. Lawmen went door to door in an attempt to find useful leads. Officers tore out sections of the press box where Rachel was mur­dered, and sent them to the state crime lab for analysis.
People who had been jogging on the track at the football field on the after­noon of the Isser girl’s death came for­ward and offered police a description of a man who had been observed sitting alone in the bleachers. One jogger told authorities of a dark-haired man in his mid-twenties who looked angry and confused, and appeared to be talking to himself.
A young boy and his sister told police about a stocky man who had asked them to play basketball with them, but they declined the offer. They said the man was wearing a green sweat shirt and looked “like a Mexican.”
Witnesses who had seen the man in question were asked to draw sketches of him to aid the cops in their composite drawings of the man. According to Sgt. Daymon Barnard of the Ashland Police Department, the descriptions and draw­ings of the man were all very similar, indicating that only one man was prob­ably involved in the slayings.
“None of the people interviewed by the police saw more than one man,” Barnard said. “The descriptions differed on the length of his hair and whether he had a moustache, and on the color of pants he wore,” he continued. “But the descriptions of the man in question were very consistent in that he is in his early or mid-twenties, of medium height and build, has dark hair, and was wearing a green or blue sweat shirt.”
And then, on Sunday, the police felt confident they had their man. A 27-year-old man confessed to murdering the two girls, after he first attempted suicide by jumping from an Interstate 5 overpass onto a passing semi-truck and its trailer. However, after investigating the details of his confession thoroughly, their confidence was quickly shattered. His confession conflicted with the evi­dence that had been collected and, after administering a lie detector test to him, he was cleared of any involvement in the homicides.
On Monday, December 31, the Ash­land Police Department released three composite drawings to the news media of a man they believed was a witness to the first murder and possibly a suspect in the case.
Meanwhile, Ashland Police Sgt. Mel Clements was assigned by Chief’ Vic Lively to head a four-man detective force to investigate the homicide case, along with assistance from the Oregon State Police and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
The next day, after the composite drawings had been released to the pub­lic, the Ashland Police Department was swamped with telephone calls, each one offering information and names that could lead to the identity of the man being sought for questioning.
Police felt optimistic that they would solve the case soon. Nonetheless, they took precautionary measures by issuing warnings to parents and teachers to be suspicious of any strangers hanging around the schools. Parents were warned not to let their children go out alone, especially in the evening, until — the case was solved.
The door to the press box at Southern Oregon State College’s stadium is al­ways left unlocked and the area of Dead Indian Road is very secluded, located on the outskirts of town. This led police to theorize that the killer was an area resident because a transient would not be aware of these things.
Meanwhile, the Jackson County Dis­trict Attorney’s Office made it known to the public that a hand-made quilt, soiled with dirt and blood, had been found inside a paper sack at a car wash. Tests showed that the blood on the quilt matched that of Deanna Jackman. A photograph of the quilt appeared in the local newspaper and on television, and authorities urged that anyone who re­cognized it call the police immediately.
The photo of the quilt brought quick results. It was identified by Peter White as belonging to him. He said he left it on his bed at his home on Idaho Street, along with many other personal belong­ings, when he began staying at another residence. White also told police he had met a man by the name of Manuel Cor­tez in late November, and he allowed Cortez to use his Idaho Street residence on a temporary basis. He also informed the police that Cortez worked at a Mexi­can restaurant, the El Toro Blanco, in Ashland.
After questioning the owners of the restaurant where Cortez worked, detec­tives felt they had enough evidence to arrest him on suspicion of murder. However, when police arrived with their warrants at the Idaho Street resi­dence on January 4, 1980, it was clear that Cortez had fled, leaving the police with no one to take into custody for the double murder.
Police learned from a girlfriend of Cortez’s that he had lived in the Ashland area for only six or seven weeks and was originally from City of Industry, California, located near Los Angeles. She told police she did not know much about him, for she had only gone out with Cortez a few times.
After checking with California au­thorities, Detective Clements learned that Cortez was wanted in California on kidnapping and attempted rape charges. He allegedly kidnapped a 16 ­year-old Pomona girl in 1977 and held her for ransom in a garage, where he tried to rape her. He had planned to ask a ransom from her parents, but the girl refused to give Cortez her parents’ phone number, and she escaped un­harmed and telephoned police.
Through painstaking detective work by the men investigating the case, au­thorities learned that Cortez had a brother living in Salinas and a mother in City of Industry, both very likely spots for the hunted man to appear.
California police were alerted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department that Cortez might be going to visit his brother in Salinas, but their efforts were once again thwarted. Cortez had just left his brother’s home prior to the arrival of police.
Not wasting any time, detectives set up a stakeout of Cortez’s mother’s house in City of Industry, where they waited for his arrival hoping that he would, indeed, show up.
And then, around noon on Saturday, January 5, 1980, Manuel Cortez was ob­served by detectives approaching his mother’s home. He was arrested im­mediately without resistance, only eight days after he allegedly raped, tor­tured, and killed Rachel Isser and De­anna Jackman.
Cortez, waiving his Miranda rights, agreed to a tape interview with Los Angeles Police. During the course of the hour-long interview, he confessed to kil­ling the two Ashland girls and made comments concerning his mental state of mind. The police were certain they had the right man, for his confession did not conflict with the evidence in any way. The tape would subsequently be used as evidence and played at his trial.
Extradition procedures were insti­tuted against Cortez immediately. California authorities agreed to support his extradition to Oregon rather than retain him for trial on the California charges.
Meanwhile, at the urging of Jackson County District Attorney Justin Smith, a grand jury returned two murder in­dictments against Manuel Trinidad Cortez, charging him with the strangl­ing death of Rachel Isser and with suf­focating Deanna Jackman.
The trial of Manuel Cortez was to be heard in Lane County Circuit Court in Eugene, Oregon, due to a change of venue granted earlier in Jackson County Circuit Court. The district at­torney’s office intended to prosecute Cortez in two separate trials, first for the murder of Rachel Isser and following with a trial for the murder of De­anna Jackman.
The first trial, which began in July, 1980, lasted for three weeks. In spite of the 95 pieces of evidence and the tes­timony of 35 witnesses, not to mention the taped confession Cortez made while in Los Angeles, Lane County Circuit Judge George Woodrich declared a mis­trial after 14 hours of deliberation in which the jury could not reach a unani­mous verdict.
It was then decided by District Attorney Smith to consolidate the two cases into one trial. The new trial was ex­pected to be less prolonged than the first one, lasting from four to six days. The court would hear testimony from 40 witnesses.
Robert Webber and Lee Werdell, the defense attorneys who represented Cor­tez in the first trial, withdrew from the case. They disagreed with Cortez, who wished to use a defense of mental dis­ease or defect. In the first trial the two attorneys tried to convince the jury of a lack of intent on the part of Cortez to kill the two girls.
Attorney Harry Carp was selected to represent Cortez after Webber and Werdell withdrew from the case, and Carp decided to use the defense of men­tal disease or defect. The second trial was scheduled to begin in October but was postponed at the request of Carp.
A jury of seven men and five women was chosen on November 14, and the trial was set to begin on November 18, 1980. Harry Carp told jurors that they would hear gruesome testimony.
“You will hear testimony that you will not want to tell your children about,” he said. “By the end of this case, you will have heard about carnage, and you will have heard about torture.” He also stated he hoped the jurors could keep an open mind regarding the charges against Cortez, despite the manner in which the girls were killed.
On the other hand, District Attorney Justin Smith said he hoped the jurors would not consider the possible penalty Cortez could receive when deciding if he was guilty or innocent. If found guilty of murder, he could be put to death in the gas chamber.
When the trial began on November 18, it was held before the same Lane County Circuit Judge George Woodrich. Cortez remained calm and relaxed, lis­tening intently, as he did during the first trial. Harry Carp, the defense counsel, waived his opening statement, allowing the prosecution to proceed.
Jackson County Deputy District At­torney Frank Desimone told the jury in his opening statement about the 26 events which led up to the discovery that the girls were missing. He told of how they found the disfigured bodies of the two girls, and gave some of the de­tails of the investigation which eventu­ally led to Cortez’s arrest at his mother’s home.
After the prosecutor completed his opening statement, he called Ron Car­son to the witness stand. Carson, of Ashland, testified that he was jogging on the track of the college football field on the afternoon of December 27, 1979, the day the Isser girl was murdered. He said that he saw a man who looked simi­lar to Cortez in the stadium.
“He looked weird, agitated, and hos­tile,” recalled Carson. “He looked as if he was in a bad mood and appeared to be under intense pressure, as if he might explode,” he said.
Bill Mead and his wife Gail, the own­ers of the El Toro Blanco restaurant — Cortez’s former employers — testified Cortez had worked for them for about three weeks in December, 1979. Mrs. Mead told the court that when Cortez showed up for work on December 30 his hair was mussed and his shirt was wrinkled.
“He usually was neatly dressed and personable,” said Mrs. Mead. “He could normally wait on about eight tables, but that day he could only handle about three.” She also testified that he had to be sent home from work that day.
Mrs. Mead also said that Cortez came in the day before and asked for his check early, so he could put down a deposit on a house he wanted to rent. She said his hair was in clumps on that day, and it looked as if someone had been pulling on it, indicating a struggle might have occurred. It appeared to the jury that his hair was pulled by one of the girls while being raped, in an attempt to thwart the attack.
Marie Langley, the Mead’s book­keeper who issued the check to Cortez, said he wasn’t looking like himself. She testified that he usually dressed neatly and his appearance was always im­maculate.
“He had on wrinkled clothes and his hair was a mess,” she said. “It looked like it had been pulled very hard, and as if he was having trouble combing it down.”
An acquaintance of Cortez’s told the court that she loaned her car to him early in the day on December 28. She said Cortez told her he needed to haul some wood for a woodworking project he was working on. She said that he was gone for about 45 minutes. When he re­turned he asked her for a paper bag, which she gave him. She said Cortez put a blanket into the bag and left on foot.
Peter White, the man whose home Cortez was staying in, testified that al­though he no longer lived at that ad­dress he continued to keep most of his clothes and belongings there, including a hand-made quilt and a pocket knife, both evidence in the case. White iden­tified the quilt as the one he left on his bed. It now had a bloodstain on it, though, which matched the blood type of Deanna Jackman. White also identified the pocket knife, which now had a fingerprint belonging to Cortez on the blade.
William Zeller, Oregon State Police fingerprint expert, told the court that a right thumb print belonging to Cortez was found on the blade of the knife seized at the house where Cortez had been temporarily staying.
A right palm print which matched that of Cortez was discovered on a ten­nis racket which belonged to Rachel Isser, according to Oregon State Police fingerprint expert Clifford Daimler.
According to witnesses from the state medical examiner’s office, Rachel Isser had been cut on her torso by a sharp instrument, and clothing belonging to Deanna Jackman was removed from her body by cutting it off. It was believed the knife with Cortez’s thumb print was the same instrument that was used.
Oregon State Police criminologist Michael Hurley took the stand and gave testimony concerning some of the items which were seized at the house where Cortez was living. Of special interest to the prosecution was a jacket with bloodstains and hairs on it, which matched those of Deanna Jackman. A hair matching those of Cortez was also found on the jacket.
A man told the jury that he knew Cor­tez through a mutual friend and that Cortez had asked him for a ride to Grants Pass on January 2. Since he did not know the way to Grants Pass, he let Cortez drive the car. Cortez told him he was going to visit relatives and would return on Sunday. However, Cortez got out of the car at the Greyhound bus depot.
During the course of the trial, De­fense Attorney Harry Carp asked very few questions during his cross- examination. With the evidence against Cortez, there was little reason to engage in lengthy cross-examination for fear of bringing more damaging facts to the surface, which could only prove detri­mental to Cortez.
Gary Ralph Edwards, a detective from the Salinas, California Police De­partment, took the witness stand and told the court how he obtained a search warrant and searched the home of Cor­tez’s brother to obtain the suspect’s per­sonal belongings which he had taken there.
Marks on Deanna Jackman’s muti­lated body matched a pattern on a belt belonging to Cortez which Det. Edwards had seized at Cortez’s brother’s home, in­dicating she may have been brutally whipped with it.
District Attorney Smith attempted to introduce as evidence a photo of Deanna’s body displaying the marks. Counselor Carp objected on the grounds that the photo would be prejudicial and unnecessary. Judge Woodrich excused the jury to hear the arguments as to whether or not the photo should be in­troduced as evidence.
Pros. Smith countered Carp’s objec­tion, contending the photo was a part of proof of intent to murder. Carp had pre­viously intended to use as a defense a lack of intent because of mental dis­ease or defect to kill the two girls.
Judge Woodrich ruled that the top portion of the photo was to be cut off and the lower part, which showed the marks, could be introduced as evidence. After this was done the jury was called back and the lower half of the photo was shown to them.
Michael Hurley, the criminologist who testified earlier in the trial, took the stand again. He testified that bloodstains found on a rug in the house where Cortez was staying were of the same type as Deanna’s, indicting she was taken there and tortured. Hurley also identified a pair of Kid Power ten­nis shoes and a pair of Hobo jeans as those that were given to him by Ashland policeman Buddy Grove, who said ear­lier that they were in Cortez’s posses­sions when he was arrested.
Deanna’s father substantiated Hur­ley’s testimony by identifying the Kid Power shoes as belonging to his daugh­ter. Rachel’s mother also identified the jeans as those of her daughter.
“Bloodstains that were found on the jeans are consistent in every way with Deanna Jackman’s blood type,” Hurley noted. He also added that some rope was found in a pickup truck which Cortez had used and that the rope was micros­copically and chemically similar to rope which was discovered in the press box, where Rachel’s body was found.
As it was earlier agreed upon by the defense and prosecution, the taped confession which Cortez had made while in the custody of the Los Angeles Police Department was played to the jury in its entirety.
“I killed two girls up there (in Ash­land), two little girls,” admitted Cortez in the tape recording. “This is very hard for me to discuss. It was very terrible.”
At one point Cortez said he considered taking his own life after he had time to realize what he had done.
“After it really hit me, what I had done, that is, I just wanted to die,” he said. He said that there was a rifle in the closet which had been left by his friend White.
“There were a lot of bullets in a drawer,” he stated on the tape. “I took one out, and laid it on the bed. I just laid it there. I didn’t load it. I sat and looked at it. I sat there and I just looked at that gun, trying to get up and do it. My mind wanted to do it but my body just wouldn’t move,” he said.
“Then I got the bullet and put it in my pocket and I put the gun back,” he said, and was silent for awhile.
In the taped statement Cortez cor­roborated his acquaintance’s testimony about having borrowed her car. He said he borrowed it to take Deanna Jackman’s body into a mountainous area outside of town to dump it.
Cortez said in his confession he had met the girls while they were walking through Ashland on their way to play tennis. He said all three of them sat down on the bleachers at the football stadium and talked for awhile, and then he asked them to go to the press box after gaining their confidence.
“I told them to go in and sit down, and that’s when it happened,” Cortez said.
He said he killed Rachel in the press box, after he first tied them up, using strips of their own clothing. He said that Deanna did not see her friend being raped or killed and she did not see Rachel after she was dead.
Cortez said that after he killed the Isser girl, Deanna walked with him to his duplex. He was then asked if De­anna had put up a fuss about going with him.
“No. She was just a friendly little girl. She didn’t see her friend get hurt. She was separated from her friend,” he explained.
“I killed her there, at the duplex.”
Cortez did not reveal, however, how he kept Deanna separated from Rachel or how he prevented her from hearing what was happening to Rachel. Was it possible he killed Rachel immediately, keeping her silent while strangling her with the white cord, and then engaging in sexual activities with her? Did he mutilate her body after she was dead? Or did he lie on the tape about Deanna not being a witness to her friend’s tor­ture and death? Cortez refused to clear up the matter, and he was not called as a witness in his own trial. When asked during the tape interview why he killed the two girls, he replied: “I don’t know. It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself.
“I feel like I’ve got a wall around me — a glass, clear wall. It’s like I’ve been walking around invisible, and I don’t like it. Sometimes I wake up and I feel like I’m a different person, like I’m nothing, just a body moving listlessly, you know. I feel like I need help, a shrink. I feel like there’s something in­side of me that I just don’t understand. Maybe it’s too late now. It is, isn’t it?” He was then heard to vomit and break out crying.
Only one witness for the defense was called in a 29 minute presentation con­tending that Cortez was suffering from a mental disease or defect. The witness for the defense was Portland psychiat­rist Barry Maletzky.
Maletzky stated that he was asked to review the transcripts of the previous trial and to listen to the taped interview of Cortez. He said he suspects Cortez might have suffered a depersonaliza­tion disorder at the time of the murders. He also stated that Cortez referred to the clothes of the two girls in a passive tense, an indication that Cortez may have been thinking of himself in the third person.
The prosecution had one more wit­ness in the case against Cortez, Oregon’s Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Larry Lewman.
“You will find the nature of this material quite offensive,” Lewman told the jury, showing them 12 photographs of the two girl’s bodies while he explained the details of the injuries.
“The deaths were sexual sadistic homicides,” Lewman said. “They in­volved bondage, torture, and sexual abuse. Much of this was clearly done while they were alive.”
Cortez remained calm, as he did throughout the trial, while he listened to Lewman’s testimony. He took notes, and looked as if he were deep in thought.
In his closing arguments to the jury, District Attorney Smith said the state had proved Manuel Cortez intended to kill, mutilate, and sexually abuse the two girls he is accused of murdering. He pointed out that death by suffocation takes from three to five minutes.
“So what we have is screwing down this ligature around Rachel’s neck for three to five minutes,” said Smith. He walked toward Cortez, and said all that was left of the two girls was there in the courtroom. He said there was some torn clothing, some blood, and some hair. Nothing else remained. Smith pointed at Cortez and said, “And that’s what he did — for his own sexual gratification.”
Pros. Smith told the jury that a ver­dict of manslaughter would not be ac­ceptable, pointing out that manslaugh­ter was reckless killing, not necessarily intentional, but that murder was an intentional act.
“I think that the motive is obvious,” he said. “The motive is this man is a sexual sadist. I would liken Mr. Cortez to a predatory animal, who went out with the intent to find a victim.”
Most of Defense Attorney Harry Carp’s closing statement attempted to convince the jury that Cortez was suf­fering from a mental disease at the time of the killings and was not responsible for his actions.
“These killings were the work of a madman,” said Carp. “Evidence pre­sented in the case requires a verdict of manslaughter, not murder.”
And then, on Tuesday, November 25, 1980 after the jury deliberated for two hours and 35 minutes, they returned a verdict of guilty on two counts which could bring Cortez the death sentence.
Defense Attorney Carp made very few comments after the reading of the verdict. He conferred briefly with Cor­tez, and said that he would challenge the prosecutor’s request for a death sen­tence on constitutional grounds.
District Attorney Smith praised the police investigation for producing 40 witnesses and 95 pieces of evidence.
“It’s the finest police investigation I’ve ever seen,” Smith added. “It’s also probably the hardest case I’ve ever been involved in. The defense did an excel­lent job, given what he had to work with,” he said of Attorney Harry Carp. “I can’t find fault with anything he did.” Smith also made it clear that he would press for the death penalty.
Manuel Cortez faces a sentencing hear­ing sometime in January, 1981. If he receives the death penalty he could die in the gas chamber, if and when the state appropriates the money for the re­novation of the death device, which has not been used for many years. If Cortez receives a life term in prison instead, he would have to serve at least 25 years for each murder, either consecutively or concurrently, depending on sentencing, before he would be considered for parole.
The names Peter White, Ron Carson, Bill and Gail Mead and Marie Langley are fictitious and were used because there is no reason for public inter­est in their true identities.

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