Man Ordered to Trial in Beating Death of Wife, Baby

Times Staff Writer

Joseph P. Lynch was ordered Friday to stand trial on charges of bludgeoning his wife and 13-month-old child to death with a champagne bottle, crimes for which he could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Judge William R. Froeberg made the ruling in Municipal Court in Santa Ana after a 2-day preliminary hearing.

Lynch is expected to enter a plea of not guilty, public defender Brian Ducker said later. The attorney had suggested that he may use an insanity defense during the trial.

"You don't plead guilty to the death penalty," Ducker added.

Lynch, 43, a native of Scotland, is accused of the Jan. 17 bludgeoning of his 35-year-old wife, Helen, and daughter Natalie. His daughter was declared brain-dead 2 days after the attack. According to earlier testimony by police officers, Lynch was found naked in his Santa Ana condominium, and later confessed, officers said, to murdering his wife there. Two other daughters, Holly, 9, and Angela, 4, slept through the attack.

During Friday's testimony, autopsy surgeon Richard Fukumoto said that he examined Helen Lynch's body and determined that she had been struck in the head with a blunt instrument at least 11 times before she died.

"I could definitely tell at least five points of impact" on the top of her head, he said. "That's the minimum."

She was also struck at least five times on the back of her head, and once on the right side of her head, Fukumoto testified.

Ducker asked if Natalie, who was being held by her mother, could have been injured as Helen Lynch fell.

Fukumoto replied, "It's possible, but probably not probable."

Judge Froeberg asked if the surgeon determined for certain whether the baby's injuries were caused by a fall or by the force of a blunt object.

"There is nothing in the autopsy that would differentiate between those two," Fukumoto replied.

In earlier testimony, a police officer said that Lynch had confessed. On Friday, another officer, Donald E. Fox, said that Lynch was confused, irrational and speechless when he arrived at the condominium.

Fox testified that at one point, he heard Lynch laughing. He was not asked to elaborate.

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