Parents Testify They Saw Son Shot by Haynes : Court: Victim Kenneth Lisi’s former mother-in-law has pleaded not guilty to charge of murder while lying in wait.
The parents of slain Walt Disney Co. executive Kenneth Lisi told a jury Tuesday of watching in horror as an elderly Jo Lula Haynes ambushed and, without warning, repeatedly shot their son outside a family home in Northridge.
“She executed him,” said Fay Lisi, breaking down in tears during the first day of trial for Haynes, her son’s former mother-in-law. “I was screaming for her to stop.”
Both Fay and her husband, Ernest, in separate testimony, stood next to the witness box--slightly bent over, hands clenched together--as they re-enacted the stance they say Haynes took as she fired the last two of three shots from a revolver into their 43-year-old son, who at the time was embroiled in a bitter divorce with Haynes’ daughter.
The Lisis had accompanied their son Kenneth when he stopped to pick up his young children, whose custody he had recently won. It was Halloween night, 1993.
When the shooting began, the parents testified, they ran toward Haynes and their son.
“I wrestled the gun from her,” Ernest Lisi said softly. “She was standing over my son.”
Haynes, now 75, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder while lying in wait. If convicted, she faces life in prison without parole.
A white-haired, bespectacled woman, Haynes occasionally whispered in her lawyer’s ear during Tuesday’s proceedings.
Evidence will show that Haynes planned to kill the younger Lisi when he arrived at the Louise Avenue home, Carole Chizever, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, told the jury during a brief opening statement.
Lisi was supposed to pick up his two daughters, then 4 and 11 years old, from his estranged wife, Pamela, but they were not home when he arrived about 7:15 p.m., Chizever said.
After Lisi knocked on the door, she said, he was met by a charging Haynes carrying a .38-caliber revolver.
“All of a sudden the defendant came out and came at him and shot him,” Chizever said.
Haynes’ lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Michael Duffey, told jurors to keep an open mind. The trial will show why and how the shooting occurred, he said.
“This is not a whodunit,” Duffey said. “You’ve got to hear what the defendant’s role was in the family.”
Lisi, an executive with the Disney Co.'s theme park division, had been awarded sole custody of the two girls about 10 weeks before the killing. He planned to remarry, and the evening he died he had planned to take the girls to see a home he had recently purchased in Lancaster, and to go trick-or-treating there, according to testimony Tuesday.
Marital problems were severe enough that Lisi moved out of the Northridge home in 1992 after having lived there for nearly 15 years of marriage. The couple and their children shared the home with Haynes.
Soon after, Pamela Lisi made the first of many accusations that Lisi had molested his youngest daughter. Kenneth Lisi later filed for divorce. Authorities say that the molestation charges were never proved and that no charges were filed against Kenneth Lisi.
Nevertheless, Haynes, according to family friends, was so upset by what she believed was happening to her grandchildren that she temporarily lost control.
According to testimony Tuesday, Haynes bought the revolver at a Northridge gun shop in August, 1993.
At the trial, Chizever played a message from Haynes to the elder Lisi allegedly left on an answering machine early on the night of the shooting. Haynes is heard asking whether Kenneth Lisi could pick up the girls at the Northridge home because Pamela Lisi’s car had broken down.
“Thank you very much,” a pleasant sounding Haynes said at the end of her message.
After Lisi’s death, Pamela Lisi collected $600,000 in insurance on her late husband’s life.
Late Tuesday, Chizever asked Fay Lisi whether she could see Haynes’ hands as her son was being shot.
“I will always see her hands,” Fay Lisi said.
Times staff writer Ann W. O’Neill contributed to this story.