Defendant Convicted of Murdering Mother of 3 Nearly 10 Years Ago

Times Staff Writer

Ronald L. Ewing was convicted Tuesday of kidnaping and murdering an Orange County housewife and mother of three nearly 10 years ago.

The 36-year-old Bellflower resident showed no emotion as the jury's verdict finding him guilty of four counts of kidnaping and one count of first-degree murder was read.

The eight women and four men on the jury spoke almost in whispers as they were polled about their verdicts on each count. They were unanimous on all the charges.

Johann Seigman had been abducted in 1976 from her Rossmoor home along with her husband and children as part of a robbery of the supermarket where John C. Seigman worked. While the others were not harmed by the three kidnapers, the woman was killed and her body was dumped in a ditch.

Earlier Conviction

William Gullett, 37, also of Bellflower, was convicted of the woman's murder last year. Authorities said they lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute a third man suspected of being involved in the crime.

"I was very glad to hear he was convicted," Cathy Seigman, the eldest of the three children, said outside Judge Luis A. Cardenas' courtroom in Westminster.

Even though Ewing's trial had finally ended after nearly five weeks, the daughter said, "it will never be over for us. Our mother is dead and we will have to go through that for the rest of our lives.

"The people who killed her took her away from the grandchildren she would have had. She missed a very important part of her life."

'They Were Just Evil'

Cathy, whose brother Paul was also in court Tuesday, said she has never understood why the abductors let the others go and then killed her mother.

"I don't know what went through their minds," she said. "She was so afraid, she would have done anything. They were just evil, I guess. They had to have a different mentality than any normal person."

The Seigmans, who had left their door open because of hot temperatures on the night of Aug. 25, 1976, were just finishing dinner when two gunmen in makeup and wigs burst in and ordered them to lie on the floor. Cathy, then 18, came home during the confrontation.

The children and their mother were tied up and put in a van, which was driven to the store that John Seigman managed in Long Beach. The abductors ordered Seigman to go inside and empty the safe, which he did. But when he returned, the van was gone.

The children were found unharmed a short time afterward, but their mother's body was discovered two days later in a ditch in Dominguez Hills. She had been shot five times in the back of the head.

Key Witness

Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony J. Rackauckas said the case boiled down to whether the jury, which had deliberated since last Wednesday, believed the testimony of Curtis Eddy, who claimed he had helped plan the abduction but never participated in it. He was the key witness.

"The question is if they believed Eddy," Rackauckas said. "If they did, it would be difficult for them to find him (Ewing) not guilty.

Rackauckas said he didn't think defense attorney John Barnett had succeeded in discrediting Eddy, who was brought in to testify from New Jersey where he is serving a five-year prison term on an illegal weapons conviction.

"I think Barnett did a good job, but even beyond Eddy there was just too much evidence. Remember, Eddy made his statement before police carried out their searches,and he told them they would find guns, wigs and walkie-talkies, which they did," Rackauckas said.

Barnett, who has filed a motion for a dismissal because Ewing was denied a speedy trial, said he was disappointed by the verdict and found it hard to believe that the jury had believed Eddy's testimony.

Life Sentence Faced

Ewing faces a life sentence without possibility of parole because the kidnaping of Johann Seigman involved great bodily harm. The remaining kidnaping charges and the murder charge all carry life terms. Ewing is scheduled to be sentenced April 25.

Although Judge Cardenas had originally set a sentencing date in June, Ewing wanted it moved up "so we can speed up the appellate process," Barnett said.

Ewing and Gullett had been arrested a short time after the kidnaping, based on information provided by Eddy, but charges were dismissed a year later by a judge who ruled that the prosecution did not have enough evidence.

In 1984, the charges were refiled based on the strength of new witnesses who had been located by Sheriff's Department investigators. It is the delay between the dismissal and the refiling of the charges that Barnett bases his motion for dismissal on.

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