SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man convicted of torturing and killing his 21-year-old daughter and keeping her nude body in a small freezer in his recreational vehicle for two years was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole.
Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno ordered the sentence for Clarence Butterfield. The 57-year-old former carpenter was convicted in August of one count each of felony murder and assault with a firearm. Jurors also agreed that Butterfield committed the murder with torture and mayhem.
At trial, prosecutors said Clarence Butterfield had a history of domestic violence and tortured Rebekah Butterfield repeatedly in the months and years leading to her death, including stabbing her in the thigh and shooting her in the foot.
Butterfield testified he didn't murder his daughter and found her dead at home on the day after Christmas 2006.
He has said he kept her body in a freezer because he thought no one would believe he was innocent and because he believed she would be resurrected.
Prosecutors said Butterfield 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.
He 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 he was wanted in Nevada on unrelated charges.
He was sent to Nevada to serve time, and the RV was left in the alley of an acquaintance's business 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, a 5-foot-long, airtight appliance sealed with duct tape.
Rebekah Butterfield's uncle and mother both submitted written statements for Wednesday's sentencing.
Prosecutors introduced evidence at trial showing the mother, Catherine Butterfield, was also tortured by Butterfield until she left him in 2004.
"To the same extent that my daughter, Rebekah Butterfield, was an exceptionally good and loving person, she was tortured and murdered in an extremely terrible way by the person she loved the most, her own father," the mother wrote. "She was beautiful inside and out, but she felt the heartache of betrayal and excruciating pain both inside and out."