SANTA ANA, Calif. – A jury Thursday convicted a 57-year-old man of the torture-murder of his adult daughter, whose body was kept in a freezer for two years.
The Orange County Superior Court jury found Clarence Butterfield guilty of first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon, and also found true special circumstances of murder with mayhem and murder with torture.
He faces a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on Oct. 8.
Butterfield had claimed he found his daughter, Rebekah, 21, dead at home on the day after Christmas 2006, then kept her body in a freezer because no one would believe he was innocent and because he believed she would be resurrected.
Prosecutors said Butterfield actually had hogtied her, shot her seven times in the leg, foot, knee and side of the head to torture her, and then stuffed her into the freezer where she suffocated.
"They did the right thing," Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh said of the jury's verdict. "He was a monster. He's still a monster and for the rest of his life he'll never be anywhere else but a prison cell, which is what he deserves."
Butterfield's ex-wife, Catherine Butterfield, also approved.
"It's a fair and just verdict for the crime," she said.
Butterfield's public defender, Lisa Eyanson, had asked the jury for a second-degree murder conviction but was not surprised at the verdict.
"It's not unexpected based on the evidence that was presented," Eyanson said. "I think he was sort of aware this was the likely outcome."
According to the prosecution, the former San Clemente man killed his daughter inside a recreational vehicle they shared.
Baytieh told the jury that despite being shot repeatedly, the victim was still alive when she was placed in the freezer and she suffocated.
Butterfield had a history of domestic violence against his daughter and ex-wife, who left him in 2004, authorities said.
The defense portrayed the construction worker as a loving father who tried unsuccessfully to revive his daughter after he found her on the floor of his motorhome.
Butterfield continued to live in the RV in Orange County until he was stopped for a traffic violation at Dana Point in September 2008 and authorities discovered that he was wanted in Nevada on unrelated charges, authorities said.
He was sent to Nevada to serve time and the RV was left in the alley of an acquaintance's business in Capistrano Beach until it was towed the next month.
Employees of a San Clemente towing company discovered the badly decomposed body wrapped in plastic inside the unplugged freezer, which was sealed with duct tape, authorities said.