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‘I’m a Killer,’ Jurors Hear

Times Staff Writer

A year after the limbless torso washed ashore in a slough near Eureka, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department’s lead investigator still had little to go on.

The victim’s identity remained a mystery, and every lead about the slaying proved fruitless.

That is, until November 1998, when Wayne Adam Ford walked into the Humboldt County sheriff’s station with a severed breast in a plastic bag and confessed to killing that woman and three others, Det. Juan Freeman testified in San Bernardino Superior Court on Monday.

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While Freeman was on the stand, prosecutors played a tape-recording of Ford’s statement to the detective.

“I’m a killer,” Ford said. “I figure I’m probably gonna die. Well, which is what I want, but I’m not gonna kill myself.”

Ford, a former truck driver, is on trial for the killings of the four women -- all prostitutes or hitchhikers -- throughout California in 1997 and 1998. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on four counts of first-degree murder, while the defense is trying for lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Ford, in a dark navy suit, leafed through a transcript of his confession.

Freeman described Ford as soft-spoken and depressed yet cooperative during the interviews, which spanned two days.

“His speaking was flat,” Freeman testified. “He would mostly look down at the ground as he spoke.”

Although his voice barely rose above a whisper on the recording, Ford could be heard sobbing and crying at intervals. On the tape, he said he used a hunting knife and razor to decapitate the still unidentified victim.

Ford stored the woman’s legs in a freezer, buried her head and arms in a sandbar and hid her thighs under leaves near his campsite, according to prosecutors.

“I had to make her small so she would fit better,” Ford said. “I cut her head off. Her arms, her legs.”

Although Ford, 44, talked frankly with investigators on the tape, he said his mind clouded up whenever he was asked to provide specifics about each killing.

“Sometimes I can concentrate and sometimes I can sit for hours and not, just, nothing happens,” Ford said in the recording.

Freeman asked Ford several times if he wanted an attorney during the questioning. After pondering the question, Ford declined, saying he wanted to help authorities.

“I know that I’m risking a lot by doing what I’m doing without an attorney,” Ford said on the recording. “A lot of [the] advantage that I might have to weasel out of something in some way, shape or form.”

The identified victims are Tina Renee Gibbs, 26, of Las Vegas; Lanett Deyon White, 25, of Fontana; and Patricia Anne Tamez, 29, of Hesperia.

In his opening statement two weeks ago, Deputy Public Defender Joseph D. Canty told the jury Ford turned himself in because he was contrite and wanted the killings to end.

The trial continued Monday after a one-week halt that San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael Smith attributed to “unexpected developments.” Attorneys said they were barred from speaking on the issue.


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