Torturing of Amy Seitz, 2, Recounted at Trial of Killer
Jurors in the second Theodore F. Frank penalty trial listened to a pathologist Monday discuss in gruesome detail the torture and murder eight years ago of 2-year-old Amy Sue Seitz of Camarillo.
Dr. Manuel R. Breton testified that the girl was raped and forced to consume enough alcohol to equal one to two beers. He also testified that she had been brutally tortured with a pliers-like instrument.
The forensic pathologist detailed numerous bruises and tears found on the girl’s body and said most of the injuries came before she was strangled. The girl was tortured for at least several minutes, Breton testified.
Death Sentence Overturned
Frank, 51, was convicted in 1979 of first-degree murder and was sentenced to die in the March 14, 1978, slaying. But his death sentence was overturned last year by the state Supreme Court, which ruled prosecutors should not have been allowed to introduce Frank’s personal diaries.
The diaries, written when Frank was at Atascadero State Hospital between 1974 and 1978, described how he liked to torture young children.
Opponents of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird focused on the reversal of Frank’s death sentence in their successful efforts to oust Bird and two other Supreme Court justices in the November election.
Retrial in Orange County
Frank’s case was returned to Orange County for retrial. He originally was tried in Orange County, even though his victim was abducted in Camarillo, after a motion for a change of venue from Ventura County. The jury now hearing the case is to decide just one issue: whether to give Frank the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Without the diaries, Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas J. Hutchins is relying primarily on testimony about other young people Frank has been accused of assaulting or sexually molesting. Four of them already have testified, and Hutchins expects to have transcripts of the testimony of two more from Frank’s first trial read to the jury.
Whether Hutchins can introduce evidence about any other victims will depend on later rulings by Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan.
Other Victims’ Testimony
Also testifying Monday was the mother of one of the victims whose testimony from the first trial is expected to be read to the jury. The woman said later that a psychiatric evaluation indicated it was in her daughter’s best interests not to testify again.
Frank has pleaded guilty to assaulting three of the six victims included in Hutchins’ case, and charges in two of the other cases were dismissed in a plea bargain.
Frank has continued to deny that he killed and molested Amy Sue Seitz. But he listened intently Monday as Lilia Rocha, who lived a few doors from the home where the girl was abducted, described events that day.
She told jurors, through a Spanish interpreter, how a man had approached her 4-year-old son in an alley near her home and was walking away with him just a short time before the Seitz abduction. Rocha said the man left when she ran out of the house and screamed at her son to stop.
Picked From Lineup
She described the man as having a beard and smoking a pipe. She later picked out Frank in a police lineup. But Frank’s attorney, Willard P. Wiksell, brought out Monday that she later told police she was not absolutely sure the man she picked out was the same one she saw in the alley.
Other chilling testimony Monday came from Chester Allen, who told how his son had found the little girl’s body near the Allen home in a remote part of Topanga Canyon two days after she was abducted.
“I saw she was dead. She had no clothes on,” Allen said. “I covered her body with a piece of carpet.”
Hutchins said after court Monday he expects to complete his case by New Year’s Day. Frank’s attorneys have not yet made an opening statement about their defense.