The murder trial of Ronald Albert Willis, a 27-year-old Long Beach man accused of beating his 19-month-old daughter to death, began Thursday in Norwalk Superior Court.
Willis pleaded guilty in January, 1984, to murdering his daughter, Mary Lynn, wrapping her body in plastic and putting it in a trash bin. Her body was found later in a Puente Hills landfill.
But in June, Long Beach Superior Court Judge Ernest L. Kelley said that the mandatory term of 15 years to life in state prison was too severe for the crime and convinced Willis to change his plea to not guilty and face a jury trial.
At the time of his daughter's death in September, 1983, Willis told Long Beach police that she had been kidnaped during a family trip to the beach. A widespread search began immediately, and police circulated a composite drawing of the supposed kidnaper. Willis appeared on television newscasts, pleading for his daughter's return.
But after intense questioning, Willis allegedly gave police contradictory information and was arrested and charged with murder. His trial--which his attorney requested be moved from Long Beach to Norwalk--is expected to last two weeks.