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Man Convicted of Murder in Torture-Slaying

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three years after his arrest, a 22-year-old man was found guilty Tuesday by a Ventura County judge of first-degree murder, kidnapping and related charges for his role in a nightmarish 1996 torture-slaying.

Billy Lyn Davis, a Lawndale resident who initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, will face life in prison without the possibility of parole when sentenced Nov. 16.

Davis withdrew his insanity plea and later waived a jury trial. Written evidence was submitted instead to Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger, who announced Tuesday that he had found Davis guilty of murdering 20-year-old Anthony Guest of Redondo Beach.

“I believe it was the appropriate decision, and I am glad to see Mr. Davis will not be released from the Department of Corrections for the rest of his life,” said prosecutor Mark Pachowicz after the ruling, which was attended by the victim’s family.

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“They were relieved that this part of the experience has ended,” Pachowicz said. “But obviously it does nothing to relieve them of what they have had to experience.”

Guest, whose body was found in northern Ventura County, was kidnapped by Davis and co-defendant Spencer Rawlin Brasure, 29, in September 1996 as a favor to a female friend. She had briefly dated Guest and wanted Brasure to beat him up after the pair broke up.

But the woman testified at Brasure’s trial that she had no idea what the pair would ultimately do.

According to witness accounts, Brasure and Davis tied Guest to a makeshift electric chair, burned him, stapled wood to his ear and glued broken glass in his mouth. After hours of torture, they pushed Guest into a plastic trash can and drove to the Hungry Valley Recreation Area near Gorman, where they burned him alive with gasoline and a road flare.

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Two maintenance workers found Guest’s charred remains beneath a juniper bush on Sept. 13, 1996. Authorities later arrested Davis and Brasure on suspicion of murder.

Brasure, who had bragged to friends about the assault, was the first to stand trial. He was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy, kidnapping and related offenses, including witness intimidation.

He was sentenced to death in August 1998.

After Brasure’s trial, prosecutors turned their attention to Davis, who was not eligible for the death penalty and who admitted to the assault in a police interview.

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Defense attorneys argued that the statements were inadmissible in court because authorities had not read Davis his rights at the time. A judge disagreed. Attorney Willard Wiksell said Tuesday that he believes the judge’s decision on the statements could be overturned on appeal.

As a result, he advised Davis to waive a jury trial and submit the case on written evidence, including grand jury transcripts, some testimony from Brasure’s trial and transcripts from the police interview.

“We knew going in that he was going to be found guilty once the statements were received,” Wiksell said. “Basically, we wanted to narrow the issue and spare the family the grief and the taxpayers the expense of a trial that would have resulted in the same verdict the judge handed down.

“If Mr. Davis is correct and the Court of Appeal throws out his confession,” Wiksell said, “then he may get a new trial. If not, then he will continue to do his sentence of life in prison without parole.”

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