SANTA ANA – A man showed no emotion Monday when an Orange County jury recommended the death penalty for the rape, torture and murder of an 84-year-old widow after breaking into her Anaheim home in 2010.
The Superior Court jury of seven women and five men after a day and a half of deliberations agreed with Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh that Anthony Darnell Wade’s crimes were “so devoid of humanity, so barbaric, so horrendous” that he deserved the maximum penalty.
Wade, 29, of Los Angeles took the witness stand against the advice of his attorneys and admitted to killing and raping Bessie Mae Whyman in the early morning hours of June 10, 2010.
Defense attorneys Lisa Eyanson and Andrew Nechaev conceded Wade’s guilt but argued that Wade did not torture the woman during the attack. Nechaev pleaded for mercy and sought life in prison without the possibility of parole for Wade, asking jurors to consider how Wade’s difficult upbringing and bipolar disorder influenced his actions.
But the jury in Judge James Stotler’s ninth-floor courtroom found after a two-week penalty phase that the aggravating circumstances of the slaying, his prior criminal convictions and other factors outweighed Wade’s unstable family life and other mitigating factors.
Lori Laucik, who was married to Whyman’s only son, Mark, for 18 years before he drowned in a river rafting accident on Mother’s Day in 1999, wept as the verdict was read.
She clutched a white angel teddy bear Whyman gave her daughter Trista Laucik, now 5, shortly before Whyman was murdered.
“It’s a very hard day for everybody,” Laucik said. “I feel that we can start getting a little peace. It’s been three-and-a-half years, and we haven’t been able to finish grieving. This case has been looming over us.”
Several members of the jury rushed out of the courtroom after the verdict with tears in their eyes. Many met with relatives of the Whyman family later in a conference room in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Juror Charles Shields, 37, of Anaheim said there was a lot of emotion during the testimony and deliberations.
“We reviewed all the evidence several times, but it came down to the circumstances of the crime. I have never seen anything like it,” Shields said. “What he did to her was horrific.”
Shields said jurors also considered the effect on both the Whyman and Wade families.
In September, the jury convicted Wade of murder during a rape, robbery, burglary and with torture, setting the stage for the penalty phase, where its only decision was to recommend punishment: the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Crime scene photos of Whyman, whom loved ones called “Bebe,” brought some jurors and courtroom spectators to tears.
Baytieh, arguing for the death penalty, said Whyman “fought and fought and fought with a monster in her home,”
Wade, Baytieh told the jury, “forfeited the right to live” for the unimaginable “agony and terror” Whyman must have felt during the attack.
After the verdict, Baytieh said, “if there ever was a case that demanded the death penalty, this is it. … The things he did to her were just inhumane.”
In his confession, Wade said Whyman pleaded with him during the attack, “Please, don’t kill me.”
A pathologist testified Whyman sustained injuries to almost every part of her body, with multiple stab wounds, and most of her ribs were broken.
Whyman was in her high school band, loved music and used to play the piano as her husband, Glenn Whyman, sang. As one story went, her mother sold milk to pay for Whyman’s piano lessons. The couple was married for 56 years before Glenn Whyman died in 2007.
Afterward, Whyman became a fixture in her Anaheim neighborhood, always nattily dressed with her signature hats and on her three-wheel scooter, venturing out to stores with her dachshund Daisy tucked into the basket.
In his testimony, Wade said he did not know Whyman but targeted her after seeing the lone woman sleeping as he looked through her bedroom window. He said he ended up in Whyman’s neighborhood after leaving his child’s mother’s home about two miles away, transcripts of grand jury testimony show.
Baytieh said Wade tortured her using knives and a saw, washed off the murder weapons in a sink but took one knife with him that night, the prosecutor said.
That knife was later found to have Whyman’s DNA, just as Wade had the woman’s DNA on his body.
After the killing, Wade testified he went to a gas station, where he purchased cigarettes, a Red Bull and Swisher Sweets.
Baytieh said Wade drank champagne – a bottle he took from Whyman’s home – and smoked a cigar after the murder.
By VIK JOLLY and LARRY WELBORN / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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