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Man sentenced to life without parole in fatal shooting of wife

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Dale Hurd’s children don’t call him ‘Dad’ anymore. Not since he killed their mother.

Hurd’s son and daughter were at home when he shot a bullet into his estranged wife’s heart.

Charlie, four years old at the time, said he saw his mother stagger down the stairway, screaming, before collapsing in the hallway of the family’s Culver City home.

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On Wednesday, Hurd, 63, was sentenced in a downtown courtroom to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Beatrice Hurd.

His children, now adults, did not attend the sentencing, but both testified at the three trials in this long-running legal saga.

Jurors deadlocked in Hurd’s first trial in 1994. A second jury convicted him in 1995 and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole. But a federal appeals court overturned the conviction three years ago, ruling that prosecutors should not have told jurors about Hurd’s refusal to reenact what he contends was an accidental shooting.

Hurd testified at trial last year that a semiautomatic pistol malfunctioned while he was teaching his wife how to use the gun to protect herself. On the day of the shooting, April 17, 1993, a verdict was pending in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of violating Rodney King’s civil rights. Many feared the verdict would spark riots across the city.

But friends testified that Beatrice Hurd was afraid of guns, casting doubt on Hurd’s account that she wanted to learn how to defend herself with a firearm.

Rather than seek to protect his wife, prosecutors argued, Hurd was abusive and controlling toward her — and had been so for years. The physical and emotional abuse prompted Beatrice Hurd to take the children and move out of the couple’s house one month before the shooting, according to court documents. She had also started a relationship with a new man — a friend of Hurd’s — and had filed for divorce, said Dep. Dist. Atty Danette Meyers.

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At the time of the shooting, a judge was within weeks of making a temporary order on custody and child support. Prosecutors said Hurd killed his wife after she wouldn’t agree to his proposed settlement, which amounted to $1,000 per month. Hurd had a six-figure salary as an accountant.

In November, a jury convicted Hurd of first-degree murder.

At Wednesday’s sentencing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus said Hurd was “unable to cope” with going through a divorce.

“Killing someone is never the solution,” Marcus said.

Since no family members were present, prosecutors read letters from Hurd’s first sentencing in 1995, including one from Beatrice Hurd’s brother, John Cook.

Cook recalled his sister as “a loving mother, daughter ... and a wonderful friend.” Cook raised his sister’s two children after the killing. He is the one they now call “Dad,” the prosecutor said.

As prosecutors read the letters aloud, Hurd stared forward with his hands shackled at the waist and his hair pulled into a ponytail. He declined to address the court but occasionally conferred with his longtime attorney, Jeffrey Brodey.

Brodey said that the pair had developed a friendship since he took on the case in 1993. Looking back on nearly 45 years of practicing law and working with hundreds of clients, Brodey ranked Hurd as “the best.”

“He’s an absolute gentleman,” Brodey said.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

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