Calling the crime "the worst" she had seen in 17 years in the San Fernando Valley, a judge Friday sentenced a man to life without parole for the slaying of his friend's parents during a home-invasion robbery in Chatsworth.
Rickey Smith Jr., 20, was responsible for "an evening of terror, of gratuitous violence and suffering," San Fernando Superior Court Judge Judith M. Ashmann said.
She called the crime "so outrageous that it defies belief."
A jury convicted the South-Central Los Angeles man in May of multiple counts of robbery, conspiracy and murder with special circumstances in the killings of Richard and Donna Landau, who were bound with duct tape, had plastic bags placed over their heads and fatally shot on Jan. 2, 1996.
Smith also was found guilty of the attempted murder of Jonathan Landau, one of the couple's two sons, who was 15 at the time of the killings. He was shot in the thigh but saved himself by playing dead and escaped by hiding on the roof of his home.
In a separate trial last month, jurors also convicted Smith's cousin and accomplice Antwan Marque Allison, 19, of Compton for his part in the slayings.
Allison, who faced 60 years to life in prison, was also scheduled to be sentenced Friday. But prosecutors believe Allison deserves life without parole as well, a harsher sentence than possible under the jury's verdict.
Consequently, prosecutors Friday asked that Allison be retried on the special circumstances allegations--including multiple murder, murder in the commission of a robbery, murder in the commission of a burglary--that the jury had refused to convict him of.
Jurors had been "unable to decide whether Allison acted with reckless indifference to human life," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert D'ver, a co-prosecutor. "We feel as the judge feels, that this is one of the Valley's worst crimes in a decade and therefore justice requires that we seek the maximum penalty allowed under law."
It would be Allison's third trial. The first ended in a mistrial after a juror consulted a legal textbook and tried to persuade other panelists to ignore Judge Ashmann's instructions.
Allison's defense attorney, Alex Kessel, said a retrial would be a "waste of judicial resources."
Prosecutors said they did not seek the death penalty because authorities could not determine which defendant had fired the shots that killed Richard Landau, 43, a landscaper who worked in the television industry, and his wife, a 39-year-old airline ticket agent.
D'ver said Smith, a friend of one the two Landau sons, was visiting the family as his cousin waited outside in his car for a signal to break in.
Allison entered the home, roused the couple and ordered them to the ground along with Smith and the son. Allison then told Smith to restrain the Landaus with duct tape. Then as the men placed a plastic shopping bag over Donna Landau's head in an attempt to strangle her, her husband broke free.
Police found Richard Landau's body sprawled in a blood-soaked hallway near the couple's bedroom. His wife was found curled up in the bedroom, her hands taped in a praying position and her head still sealed in a plastic bag.
The attackers then fled in a car after having taken jewelry, credit cards and a checkbook, D'ver said.