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Seeking Mercy for Serial Killer, Brother Details Steps to Confession

Times Staff Writer

During the 20 long minutes in 1998 when serial killer Wayne Adam Ford waited to speak to a deputy so he could surrender, he was at a crossroads between freedom and a possible death sentence -- and he was ready to head for the door.

His brother, Calvin Rodney Ford, who accompanied the killer to the Humboldt County sheriff’s station, recalled that he did not yet know his brother had murdered four women -- dismembering some -- and dumped their bodies in waterways throughout California.

But over a long night and day of tears, Wayne Ford had told him he had “hurt someone.” As they waited in the lobby of the sheriff’s station, Rodney Ford recalled, he told his brother he had to turn himself in. Later that evening, the brother also persuaded Wayne Ford to confess his crimes without a lawyer present.

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On June 27, a San Bernardino County jury of seven women and five men found Ford guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of 26-year-old Tina Renee Gibbs of Las Vegas, 25-year-old Lanett Deyon White of Fontana, 29-year-old Patricia Tamez of Hesperia and a woman found near Eureka, whose body was so mutilated that she has never been identified and is known as Humboldt County Jane Doe.

On Thursday, Rodney Ford was the first witness to take the stand for the defense in the sentencing phase.

“He turned himself in. He expressed to me a number of times he didn’t want to hurt people anymore,” Rodney Ford said. “I love him. I don’t want to see him die.”

Rodney Ford was the lone member of Ford’s family to testify. His appearance followed gut-wrenching testimony from the parents of three of Ford’s victims, who detectives said were prostitutes and hitchhikers who climbed into Ford’s long-haul rig in 1997 and 1998.

Most of Rodney Ford’s answers to questions about his brother were clipped and matter-of-fact. “I think he’s got problems,” he said when asked about Ford’s mental state.

But his testimony during the trial and on Thursday gave jurors a window into Ford’s state of mind when he surrendered.

The night before Wayne Ford arrived at the Humboldt County sheriff’s station Nov. 3, 1998 -- the breast of one of his victims in his jacket pocket -- he called his brother and told him he needed help.

Rodney Ford said he drove to a motel in the woods an hour north of Eureka, where Wayne Ford met him on the porch and rambled incoherently late into the night about how he had “hurt some people.”

With a visit to the sheriff’s station looming, they spent the next day driving to childhood haunts such as the zoo and to motorcycle shops. It wasn’t until they were walking toward the station at the end of the day that Wayne Ford tearfully told his brother he had killed a girl and “cut her up,” according to Rodney Ford’s testimony earlier this year.

The confessions Ford apparently planned to make might not have happened because Wayne Ford said he wanted a lawyer present during the detectives’ initial inquiries.

But court records show that Rodney Ford visited his brother in his cell and urged him to confess “on his own.”

“You told me today that ... you’ve been a coward,” Rodney Ford said to his brother during a conversation in Wayne Ford’s cell that was taped without their knowledge. “Don’t be one anymore.”

Ford did confess, and his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Steven Mapes, told the jury Thursday that was reason enough to give Ford a life sentence instead of death.

“This case is about a man who did the right thing after doing so many wrong ones,” Mapes said. “We’re going to ask you, as jurors, to do the right thing for a man who had conscience and turned himself in.”

Prosecutor J. David Mazurek said he could not comment Thursday because of a court-imposed gag order. The hearing resumes Tuesday.


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