A 32-year-old Orange man who shot himself twice after shooting and killing his former girlfriend at an Anaheim Hills restaurant last October was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey L. Robinson told jurors that he would leave it up to them whether Larry L. Burgoon, who survived two suicide attempts during the tumultuous relationship, was guilty of first- or second-degree murder.
The jurors came back with the harsher of the two verdicts after a little more than one day of deliberations at Harbor Municipal Court.
"It's a very sad case, and the jurors had a lot of sympathy for him," Robinson said. "But they just couldn't find anything to mitigate what he had done."
Robinson said Burgoon appeared to be obsessed with the victim, 51-year-old Mary Louise Cutbirth of Fullerton.
They began dating about three years before the shooting and a year later, Burgoon, a burly construction worker, moved in with her. But in September, 1989, she broke off the relationship and asked him to leave.
She once had him arrested when he drove off with her car, which he had bought for her. And a week before the shooting, she obtained a court order to keep him 100 yards away from her home and workplace.
In seeking the order, Cutbirth told the court that Burgoon threatened her and her family and at one point had told her: "You are dead."
Robinson said Burgoon had not physically attacked her but was constantly harassing her. Two weeks before the shooting, Burgoon attempted suicide but failed, Robinson said.
Then, on Oct. 26, 1989, Cutbirth was at the Foxfire Restaurant on Santa Ana Canyon Road near Imperial Highway with a friend, listening to a band, when Burgoon came in and sat at their table. The friend saw Burgoon holding a pistol under the table. But before Cutbirth could report it to a cocktail waitress, Burgoon began firing.
He shot Cutbirth in the face and then turned the gun toward his head and fired, hitting himself; he then fired a second shot, hitting himself again before crumpling to the floor. He was taken to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana and Cutbirth to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where she died.
Burgoon testified at his trial that he only entered the restaurant to kill himself in front of her because she had been so unfair to him. He did not mean to kill her, he said. But prosecutors presented a witness who told jurors that Burgoon had confided to him that he wanted to see Cutbirth dead.
Prosecutors almost always tell jurors whether they believe the facts support a first-degree murder verdict (which involves premeditation) or second-degree murder verdict (malice without premeditation). But Robinson told jurors he could live with either verdict.
Burgoon broke down numerous times during the two-week trial. His lawyers asked jurors to consider a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, claiming that Burgoon was too distraught to intend a malicious or premeditated act.
The maximum penalty for voluntary manslaughter is 11 years in prison. The first-degree murder conviction, with the use of a gun, calls for an automatic sentence of 27 years to life in prison.
Robinson said later that the jury's verdict is not something to feel good about, because the circumstances of the shooting were so tragic.
"You have to feel for this guy," Robinson said. "But he did kill her. And the punishment is set by law."
Superior Court Judge Ragnar R. Engebretson set formal sentencing for Sept. 21.