A Mission Hills man who helped kill and dismember a man at a barbecue was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Edward Phillip Contreras, 25, convicted last month of first-degree murder with special circumstances for the slaying of Frederic Walker, of Antelope Valley, could have received the death penalty. But prosecutors opted for a life sentence.
“It is difficult to fathom how any person could take part in such a gruesome, violent and horrific offense,” said Superior Court Judge John S. Fisher, reading aloud from the court’s probation and sentencing report.
The crime “imparts a chilling tale of the defendant’s coldness and inhumanity,” Fisher said.
During the trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph Payne said Contreras and Scott Taylor, who was also sentenced to life without parole in the slaying, invited Walker to a barbecue in Bouquet Canyon on Aug. 9, 1995 to steal his cash inheritance of $635.
Taylor and Contreras beat, punched and stabbed Walker, according to testimony.
Using an ax, a machete and possibly a chain saw they cut up the corpse and placed the victim’s head in a plastic bag, which they dumped in a remote area near Lake Hughes.
The bag was found by two soldiers who saw a car drive into the area at night.
Police then got a teenage girl who was at the barbecue to identify Contreras and Scott.
“The investigators did a phenomenal job,” Payne said after the sentencing.
“They started with body parts with no identification, not knowing where the crime took place, no witnesses. Too often, crimes like this go unsolved.”
Prosecutors declined to say why they sought life in prison rather than death.
“The factors going into making a decision to seek death or life without the possibility of parole for any defendant are confidential matters and are not discussed,” said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney.