Ex-Postal Worker Is Convicted of Murder
Former postal worker Mark Richard Hilbun was convicted Tuesday of murdering his mother and a close friend and trying to kill seven others during a two-day rampage across Orange County.
Jurors must now decide whether Hilbun was sane when he committed those crimes.
The legal distinction is the difference between commitment to a mental hospital if Hilbun is found to have been insane or a possible death sentence if jurors decide he was mentally competent.
Hilbun, 42, says he was convinced the world was ending when he raced across the county May 6, 1993. He stabbed his mother to death, slit her cocker spaniel’s throat and opened fire on co-workers at the Dana Point post office before getting back into his pickup truck and shooting at strangers.
After three days of deliberations, an Orange County Superior Court jury found Hilbun guilty Tuesday of two counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and other charges of robbery, attempted robbery, attempted kidnapping and cruelty to animals. Jurors deadlocked on a single charge of burglary, and the judge dismissed the count.
Hilbun sat impassively in a long-sleeved white shirt and charcoal trousers and looked away from the jury as a clerk read the verdicts, a task that took more than 30 minutes because of the many counts and special allegations.
Les Hilbun, the defendant’s father, clutched the hand of his wife, MaryJane, as the verdicts were announced. Family members, along with attorneys on the case, declined to comment afterward.
The same jury returns Monday for the trial’s sanity phase, which is expected to last three weeks before Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey.
Hilbun has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers contend that he has a long history of mental illness and was driven by the desire to take a female co-worker to Baja California to live as Adam and Eve once the world ended.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Evans does not dispute that Hilbun may have mental problems. But the prosecutor contends that Hilbun knew exactly what he was doing as he carefully plotted to kidnap co-worker Kim Springer, who had repeatedly spurned his obsessive attention, and to “pay back” his bosses for trying to fire him.
Springer hid inside the post office when Hilbun showed up armed at work. He shot another co-worker, friend Charles Barbagallo, between the eyes and wounded another postal employee.
Before the trip to the post office, he had repeatedly stabbed his mother, Frances Nell Hilbun, in the heart at her Corona del Mar home.
If jurors find that Hilbun was insane, he would be sent to a state psychiatric hospital where he would remain indefinitely. If Hilbun is found sane, jurors will move to a third and final trial phase, in which they must decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Although Hilbun’s lawyers urged jurors to convict him of lesser charges that would spare him a possible death sentence, his guilt was never at issue in the trial’s first phase.
Hilbun confessed to the crimes during an interview with investigators soon after his arrest.
“I had the idea the world was going to end. It was going to go through a catastrophe and Kim and I were chosen, uh, as husband and wife of the race, the human race,” Hilbun said, his voice flat and calm throughout the interview.
Hilbun said he shot Barbagallo “between the eyes” after his good friend refused to tell him where Springer was hiding in the post office.
“Why did you shoot him between the eyes?” sheriff’s investigator Michael Wallace asked.
“No one could stop me from being complete,” Hilbun said. “I just had it in my mind that Kim and I were two halves and together we’d be complete.”
Hilbun told detectives he killed his mother to spare her from the apocalypse he believed would happen May 9 that year--his birthday and Mother’s Day.
“She was still in bed,” he said. “I just decided she was better off dead. So I walked in. The dog, Golden, knew I was coming to take her life. He howled and came up to me, and I slit his throat. And I walked into Mom’s bedroom and said I was going to take off camping and had a Mother’s Day gift for her. . . . I said, ‘I love you very much, and you’re going to go see Grandma,’ and plunged the knife in her heart a couple times.”