Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS. : COURTS : Conviction Upheld in Postwoman’s Murder
Defense attorneys contended that a vital police report had been withheld from them and therefore the jury verdict convicting their client was invalid. The trial judge overturned the conviction.
But last week, the 4th District Court of Appeal disagreed, and once more Gabriel Deluca, 20, is on the verge of a 25-year-to-life prison sentence.
In 1984, Deluca was a high-school dropout and part-time Orange Coast College student. Postal worker Ida Jean Haxton, 30, delivered mail in his Huntington Beach neighborhood.
That Jan. 3, she was found in the back seat of her mail car, which was parked at a Costa Mesa church. She had been killed by a blow to the back of the head, and she had been stabbed 19 times.
Bloodhounds traced a trail from the car to the front of Deluca’s house. There police found stuffed into a trash can Deluca’s bloody clothes and a baseball bat that had been sawed in half.
Blood was found at the house. Deluca’s father’s hunting knife was found in the mail car, along with a bloody fingerprint from Deluca’s thumb. Bloody footprints in the car matched Deluca’s tennis shoes.
The court of appeal ruled that the police report referred to by defense attorneys--one which described Deluca’s behavior after his arrest--was not withheld but was readily available for the asking. The information in it was not significant enough to change the verdict, the justices said.