By City News Service
The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld a former Long Beach resident’s death sentence for murdering a Los Alamitos real estate agent in her apartment more than 27 years ago.
The state's highest court rejected the defense's contention that there had been errors in Robert Mark Edwards' trial in Orange County Superior Court for the May 1986 strangulation of Marjorie Deeble, including the admission of evidence about a murder in Hawaii for which he was convicted in 1994.
Edwards was sentenced to death in 1998 for the May 1986 strangulation of Deeble, whose daughter was dating him at the time.
The 55-year-old victim's body was discovered in her bedroom, with her neck in a noose made from a thin belt that was tied to the top drawer handle of a dresser so Deeble’s neck was suspended about eight inches above the floor, according to the California Supreme Court's ruling.
Edwards was convicted separately in Hawaii in 1994 of the slaying of 67-year-old Muriel Delbecq, who was found in January 1993 under a pile of blankets on her bed in her condominium in Kihei, Maui. She had been strangled.
In a 143-page ruling written on behalf of the panel, Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote that the trial court was aware at the time the evidence about the crime in Hawaii that there were “numerous similarities between the Deeble and Delbecq murders.”
“Most notably, (hair) mousse cans of similar diameter and length were present at both crime scenes, and there was evidence both victims had been sexually penetrated by the mousse cans,” Baxter wrote.
The California Supreme Court ruling noted that the judge had excluded evidence that the two women shared the same three initials and were both real estate agents because Delbecq did not engage in that occupation while she was visiting Hawaii and that there was no evidence he knew about her job in Alaska.
Edwards was charged with Deeble's murder in 1993 after his arrest in Hawaii. He was convicted of first-degree murder for Deeble's slaying, with jurors finding true the special circumstance allegations of murder during a burglary and murder involving the infliction of torture.
In a separate 10-page ruling, Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote — with Associate Justice Goodwin Liu concurring — that she would reverse one of the special circumstance findings involving torture. The two found that it was prejudicial when a pathologist called to testify during the trial “relayed to the jury the observations of the non-testifying autopsy pathologist” who had retired.
The two noted, however, that “ample evidence” aside from the pathologist's testimony supported the murder charge and the other special circumstance allegation against Edwards.