William A. Noguera, convicted of murdering his girlfriend's mother for her insurance, was sentenced to death Friday. At 23, he becomes the youngest man on Death Row sentenced from Orange County.
Superior Court Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald told the sobbing slayer that the murder was particularly "cruel and vicious."
Noguera, a resident of the Valinda area in Los Angeles County, turned to family and friends before leaving court and told them, "I'll be back."
A jury returned a death verdict last May against Noguera in the April 24, 1983, slaying of Jovita V. Navarro, who was 42, at her La Habra home. The woman was found strangled, and medical testimony later showed that she suffered 14 separate blows to the head with a heavy object.
Daughter Also in Prison
Dominique Navarro, the victim's daughter, who was 16 at the time, was convicted of the murder in 1984 and is serving her sentence at the California Youth Authority. She will be released when she is 25.
Prosecutors said Noguera and Dominique Navarro planned the woman's murder in an effort to collect on a $25,000 life insurance policy. Key testimony against them came from Ricky Abrams, a friend of Noguera's, who said the three of them met at a Bob's Big Boy restaurant, where Noguera and his girlfriend tried to get him to help them kill the woman. Abrams said he never agreed to participate.
While Noguera's trial lawyers tried to attack Abrams' credibility--he had been convicted of auto thefts three times--prosecutors told jurors that Abrams had no reason to lie.
Noguera's attorneys said that their client "chickened out" of the plan and that Dominique Navarro finally found someone else to help her kill her mother.
But prosecutors said it was Noguera's martial-arts baton that was used to beat the woman. They also presented evidence that there were bitter feelings between Noguera and the victim, who had tried to break up the couple's relationship many times.
Fitzgerald's decision was no surprise to attorneys in the case. No county judge has reversed a jury's death verdict since the new death penalty law went into effect in 1977.
No Serious Record
Noguera was 18 at the time of the killing. Also, he had no serious record for crime or violence that prosecutors could use as evidence of aggravating circumstances at the penalty phase of Noguera's trial.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard M. King said he sought the death penalty because "it was an extremely brutal murder. . . . Navarro suffered a horrible death." Jurors who returned the death verdict against Noguera cited the viciousness of the killing.
Noguera's sentencing was postponed several times. At his request, a new lawyer was appointed to put together a motion for a new trial, which Fitzgerald denied.
Dominique Navarro still faces contempt charges for her refusal to testify against Noguera last year. She would not even take the witness oath.