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Jury Quickly Convicts Parker of Six Rape-Murders in ‘70s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The man accused of fatally bludgeoning five Orange County women during a late-1970s rape spree and causing the death of another woman’s unborn baby was convicted Tuesday on six counts of first-degree murder.

A jury took just over two hours to find Gerald Parker guilty. Parker, 43, could face the death penalty when he is sentenced Nov. 2.

The five victims, all between 17 and 31 years old, were killed in the so-called Bedroom Basher assaults in 1978 and 1979. The sixth victim, Dianna D’Aiello, who was nine months pregnant, survived the attack, but her baby was stillborn.

Kevin Green, D’Aiello’s husband at the time, was convicted and served more than 16 years in prison until 1996, when DNA samples taken from Parker, a former Marine staff sergeant who had been convicted of rape, were matched with traces from the five unsolved murders and the Green case.

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Green was released in 1996 and now lives in Missouri.

Outside Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, family members of the victims said they were glad to see the conclusion of the case after nearly two decades. But some were still guarded.

“We got our verdicts, so we are halfway there,” said Jackie Bissonnette of Newport Beach, whose sister Debra Lynn Senior, 17, was murdered 19 years ago today in her Costa Mesa apartment.

Bissonnette said having the verdicts come in so close to the anniversary of her sister’s death gave her a sense of justice, but she said her family will not have peace until Parker receives the death penalty.

“My sister didn’t get life in prison,” she had said earlier. “I can never visit my sister.”

Many expressed surprise at how quickly the jury reached a verdict. The decision was read at 5 p.m., just as the court was closing for the day.

“I was getting ready to leave,” said Bob Fry of Las Vegas, who drove to Santa Ana to watch the trial. Fry’s sister, Sandra Kay Fry, 17, of Anaheim, was one of Parker’s victims.

The others were Kimberly Gaye Rawlins, 21, and Marolyn Kay Carleton, 31, both of Costa Mesa; and Debora Kennedy, 24, of Tustin.

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Prosecutors argued during the two-week trial that Parker killed the five women while raping or trying to rape them. He broke into their homes, used blunt objects to knock the women unconscious and then sexually assaulted them, prosecutors said.

The defense did not contest the overwhelming amount of physical evidence, including fingerprints and DNA matches, that eventually pointed to Parker as the suspect.

Parker’s lawyers, David Zimmerman and James Enright, focused their case on Parker’s state of mind at the time he committed the crimes.

They argued that Parker, an admitted alcoholic and drug user, was heavily intoxicated when he committed the murders and therefore should be convicted on lesser charges of second-degree murder. A first-degree murder conviction would require premeditation, which Zimmerman argued that Parker lacked.

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Parker, who had shown little emotion during the trial, sat trembling visibly during the closing arguments Tuesday, his hands shaking wildly at times.

In closing, Zimmerman said of his client: “This man despises himself. . . . Who in their right mind could do this to a stranger?”

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Mike Jacobs dismissed that argument as a “far cry” from the facts. He told the jury of nine women and three men that Parker clearly had planned his attacks.

“When he struck these six women over their heads, he knew exactly what he was doing,” Jacobs said. “When he removed their clothes and his, he knew what he was doing.”

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