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La Habra Man Convicted in 1982 Slaying : 20-Year-Old Could Get 16 Years or Be Sent to Youth Authority

Times Staff Writer

A 20-year-old La Habra man described by his attorney as “extremely emotionally immature” was convicted Friday of the second-degree murder of a neighbor who had befriended him and hired him to mow her lawn.

Paul Whitton, who was 16 at the time of the murder, could be sentenced to 16 years in state prison, or could be sent to the California Youth Authority, where people convicted of second-degree murder usually remain no more than four years, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Brent Romney.

Neighbors were shocked when Whitton was arrested for the murder of Carlene Ruth Walker, 42, who had been stabbed more than 80 times. They described him as a friendly youth who was often seen at the Walker house.

Police Chased Driver

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Shortly after midnight on Nov. 2, 1982, Brea police tried to stop the driver of a car with a light out. But the driver led the police on a chase through several residential areas before crashing the car into a tree and fleeing on foot. The car turned out to be Walker’s.

Police found Walker bleeding on the back-seat floor. She died a short time later at Anaheim Memorial Hospital.

Whitton was soon arrested and confessed, but gave no explanation why he killed her. The motive for the stabbing, said defense attorney Paul Meyer, “is still a question to this day.”

Meyer could only offer that his client had been using drugs and was “an extremely emotionally immature” young man.

Meyer did not argue strongly for a verdict of less than murder, but he vehemently argued that it was not first-degree murder because the prosecution had failed to prove there had been any premeditation.

Argued for Premeditation

Prosecutor Romney argued to the jurors that the multitude of stab wounds plus Whitton’s attempt to flee in Walker’s car were evidence of premeditation.

“I’m delighted with the second-degree verdict,” Meyer said.

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Romney said he was not disappointed. “I didn’t have a motive to offer the jury to get a first-degree,” Romney said. “I think Whitton knows why he did it, but the jurors had no way of knowing.”

Whitton’s trial has been delayed for more than two years while Meyer and the district attorney’s office fought in the appellate courts over procedures involving Whitton’s Juvenile Court hearing. The defense wanted the right to introduce testimony from Whitton or statements he made to psychiatrists without having them used against him at his trial. Prosecutors refused to agree.

Meyer won his arguments and Whitton was granted a second juvenile hearing, where the defense ended up not submitting any statements from Whitton. He was eventually bound over for adult court anyway.

Superior Court Judge John H. Smith Jr. set a July 18 sentencing date, where he is expected to order a diagnostic evaluation to help determine where Whitton should serve his sentence.

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