The man who raped and strangled a Los Alamitos woman 12 years ago was alternately described as depraved and the victim of "alcoholic blackouts" by attorneys at the outset of the trial Monday to determine if he will be sentenced to die.
Robert Mark Edwards, 36, of Long Beach was convicted in 1996 of killing 55-year-old Marjorie E. Deeble, the mother of his former girlfriend. But the jury that convicted him deadlocked 9-3 in favor of execution when trying to determine his sentence.
Edwards' second penalty trial began with Deputy Dist. Atty. David L. Brent asking a new jury to remember two things: the depravity of Edwards in committing the crimes and the degradation he perpetrated on the victims.
Police found Deeble in her home partially clothed with a belt looped around her neck and secured to a dresser.
Detectives had no evidence linking Edwards to the crime until 1993, when a woman in Hawaii was murdered under similar circumstances. Edwards, who at the time lived near the woman in Maui, was convicted of that slaying after detectives found his bloody handprints and footprints at the scene.
In each case he beat, mutilated and sexually assaulted the women before strangling them.
But in asking jurors to hand down a life sentence, Deputy Public Defender Tim Severin suggested they take into account Edwards' emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, Edwards' own addiction and his attempts at counseling his 13-year-old son. He added that Edwards was in an alcoholic blackout during each of the murders and doesn't remember them.
"He has a dark side, but that dark side only comes out when he's under the extreme domination of drugs and alcohol," Severin said. "The other side is that of a warm, humane and loving person."
The trial is expected to last three weeks.