California Jury Recommends Death for Trucker

A jury on Thursday recommended the death penalty for a former truck driver convicted in the slayings of four women whose mutilated bodies were dumped across California in the 1990s.

Jurors could have recommended either death or life in prison without parole for Wayne A. Ford, who carried out the killings in 1997 and 1998. The same panel convicted him in June of the slayings.

Judge Michael A. Smith, who will ultimately decide Ford's fate, scheduled the sentencing for Oct. 20. The judge also was to hear defense motions for a new trial at that time, a Superior Court clerk said.

In 1998, Ford walked into a Humboldt County sheriff's station with a woman's severed breast and told authorities the body part was just the "tip of the iceberg."

He was subsequently charged with the killings of Patricia Tamez, 29; Lanett White, 25; Tina Gibbs, 26; and an unidentified woman whose torso was found in a marsh.

Ford's lawyer had pleaded for leniency during the penalty phase, saying that Ford surrendered in order to stop the killings. Joseph D. Canty Jr. said the former trucker had arrived, in tears, just two weeks after the last murder and after having attended a Bible camp.

"This man is here because he repented," he said.

Deputy District Attorney J. David Mazurek showed jurors images of the women's dismembered bodies on a projection screen and called their killings "some of the most horrific, brutal crimes you could ever see."

Some of the victims' relatives asked the jury to recommend death.

"I want to see him dead," said White's father, Bill White. "He's already dead to me."

Prosecutors portrayed Ford as a predator who sought out prostitutes, had sex with them in his truck and then strangled them to satisfy his sadistic desires.

Although Ford confessed, defense attorneys raised questions about his mental state before and during the killing spree. The defense focused on Ford's troubled past, which included a difficult childhood and a head injury he suffered in a traffic accident.