Penalty phase in trial of serial killer continues Monday

Penalty phase in trial of serial killer continues Monday
Chester Dewayne Turner pictured in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2004. (Bob Chamberlain Los Angeles Times/Associated Press pool)

James Parham was 9 years old when he found out his mother had been killed.

Parham said he refused to believe it. He kept expecting his mother, Elandra Bunn, to come home.


"I was anticipating seeing her. I was anxious," Parham, now 36, recalled Friday at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center downtown, where jurors heard opening statements and testimony from family members during the first day of the penalty phase in the trial of serial killer Chester DeWayne Turner.

Turner, who was already on death row for killing 10 women and an unborn child, was found guilty Thursday of killing four more women, prosecutors said. He was convicted on four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Bunn, Deborah Williams, Mary Edwards and Cynthia Annette Johnson.

Jurors can weigh, among other considerations, family members' testimonies when deciding what penalty to impose -- life without parole or death. The penalty phase will continue Monday morning.

Dressed in a striped dress shirt and slacks, Turner sat to the right of his defense attorneys on Friday as family members of the victims spoke of their loved ones.

One after the other, family members took the witness stand and fielded questions from the prosecution about fond memories of family holidays and how they best remembered their mom, daughter, sister or cousin.

Deborah Williams was a socialite. Elandra Bunn had a beautiful smile. Mary Edwards had a caring spirit and was in the process of adopting a child.

But, like Parham, they also spoke of the hurt left in the wake of loss.

"I was angry. I was angry. What do you mean someone killed my sister?" said Sheree Jackson, recounting what went through her mind when she first learned of Elandra's death.

"I could only wonder what it'd be like," said Shanequa Williams, who was a year old when her mother, Deborah, was killed. "What if I didn't have her for my graduation. I won't have her for my wedding."

"You kind of learn to live with it but you're never going to get over it," said Johnna Edwards.

Now the father of two teenagers, Parham said he has questions about parenthood his mom will never be able to help answer.

"Do you think about her a lot?" a prosecutor asked.

"How could you not?" he answered.

Described by prosecutors as a savage sexual predator fixated on violence, dominance and control, Turner was one of the most prolific serial killers in Los Angeles during the 1980s and '90s.


He was charged in 2011 with the four additional murders after DNA evidence connected him to the 1997 killing of Cynthia Johnson, whose body was found near an African Methodist Episcopal church in the Green Meadows neighborhood.

Los Angeles police originally arrested and unsuccessfully prosecuted another suspect in Johnson's killing.

Her death had been considered cleared until detectives accidentally included her case with others being tested for DNA in 2010, connecting Turner to the killing.

Detectives suspected Turner in the killings of the three other women -- Elandra Bunn, 33; Deborah Williams, 28; and 42-year-old Mary Edwards -- but did not charge him until 2011.

All four women were found strangled, a pattern matching most of Turner's victims.

Turner, a onetime pizza deliveryman, was sentenced to death in 2007 for the rape and murder of 10 other women between 1987 and 1998. One woman was pregnant.