Brian Framstead, who made headlines last year when he killed his girlfriend and set himself on fire, so passionately needed a happy, stable family life that he murdered the young woman because she broke off their relationship, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
His face and head covered with burn scars, Framstead stared blankly ahead as lawyers sketched conflicting portraits of him on the opening day of his trial in Orange County Superior Court.
In one, the 30-year-old cabinetmaker was a coolheaded murderer, stalking and shooting Tammy Davis, 19, the mother of his child, because she denied him the family life he had never known as a child.
In the other, Framstead was a jilted lover who wanted only to explain the depth of his despair before committing suicide in front of Davis, but who unwittingly became a killer when the gun accidentally went off.
Framstead faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of using a gun in a premeditated murder. The trial is expected to last one to two weeks.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Christian R. Jensen did not dispute that Framstead shot Davis but insisted that he lacked the intent to harm her. Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans disagreed, saying Framstead became “obsessed” with Davis and set out to kill her, carrying a loaded gun and a pair of handcuffs when he hid in her car in Huntington Beach on the night of Jan. 5, 1990.
Curiously, both the prosecution and the defense will rely on the same two handwritten letters to try to convince jurors of Framstead’s criminal intent, or the lack of it. In one, dated Jan. 1, 1990, Framstead describes the ups and downs of the couple’s stormy relationship and details his sorrow over its breakup.
“Now my heart is aching and it won’t stop,” Framstead wrote. ". . . I know now that there is only one thing to do. I know that I will never love anyone as I do Tammy . . . yet I do not want to spend the rest of my life alone.”
It concludes: “Please forgive me.”
In an earlier, undated draft of the letter, Framstead spoke of the couple’s now-ruined future plans, saying bitterly: “If it was going to be like this, I wish she would have never come back into my life.” He said he believed that he did not deserve to “have my feelings treated like this” and insisted that he was “not that bad of a person.”
Evans noted that Framstead had threatened Davis before. In April, 1989, soon after they had split up, Framstead displayed a gun to force Davis to discuss their relationship. He later pleaded guilty to brandishing a weapon and was set to begin a six-month term in county jail on Jan. 7, 1990.
Since meeting at a Garden Grove bowling alley where they both worked, the pair had an on-again, off-again relationship, both lawyers said. But the two attorneys cast the affair’s history differently.
Jensen described how the two “got along lovingly” at first and “showered” each other with gifts and flowers, taking parenting classes together when Davis was pregnant. When Davis took their daughter and moved out, Framstead was “left with nothing and no one,” Jensen said.
Framstead even attempted suicide once but couldn’t figure out how to deactivate the weapon’s safety mechanism, Jensen said. Framstead’s brother later found him in a closet, “cowering” under a pile of clothes, the attorney said.
Because of that botched attempt, Framstead was determined to succeed that night of Jan. 5, Jensen told jurors. He took a shotgun, as many prescription drugs as he could gather, a pair of handcuffs and a 5-gallon can of gasoline. If the pills and gun didn’t work, Framstead planned to set himself on fire, cuffing himself to the steering wheel, Jensen said.
That night, after a couple of weeks of a reunited relationship with Davis that had then soured again, Framstead hid in Davis’ car while she worked as a waitress at Bob’s Big Boy. He wanted to make her listen to how much pain she had caused him, Jensen said. Once she got in the car, Framstead kept the gun cocked, pointed at his own face, Jensen said.
But Jensen said the plan went awry when Davis panicked and leaped from the car, running to a stranger’s doorstep to seek help. Framstead followed her with the gun. Turning, he accidentally struck her with the barrel of the cocked gun and it went off, Jensen said.
Evans’ version was different. The woman who lived at that house will testify, he said, that she heard Davis scream, “Help me! Help me!” and rattle the doorknob, trying to get in, and then, “Oh, God.” The woman heard two voices arguing: the man’s, cool and calm, and the woman’s, hysterical, Evans said. Then, she heard Davis scream, “No! No! No!” and a single shot.
The shot was fired at very close range from above, as Framstead stood over Davis, Evans said. Just before the gun fired, he said, Davis turned away, her hands cupped in front of her face. She was found slumped against the front door.
Framstead drove toward Victorville, leading law enforcement officials in a chase after he was located the next day. As they closed in on him, he doused himself with gasoline and lit a match. He screamed at officers to leave him in the car, but they dragged him out, burning, and saved his life, Jensen said.
Framstead spent months in the hospital, recovering from burns all over his body.