LOS ANGELES, Calif.–A man who is already serving a life prison term without the possibility of parole for four murders was sentenced today to death for suffocating a 15-year-old girl and strangling two women between 1986 and 1993.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe said he was “satisfied beyond all doubt that Michael Hughes is guilty” and that the case “warrants the imposition of death.”
Hughes, now 55, convicted Nov. 3 of first-degree murder for the slayings of Yvonne Coleman, 15, Verna Williams, 37, and Deborah Jackson, 32, between January 1986 and June 1993.
Jurors recommended Dec. 13 that he be sentenced to death for the slayings. Hughes was convicted in 1998 of the September 1992 killing of Theresa Ballard, the October 1992 slaying of the late Mayor Tom Bradley’s niece, Brenda Bradley, and the November 1993 murders of Terri Myles and Jamie Harrington. He was serving a life term for those crimes when he was charged in June 2008 in the deaths of Coleman, Williams and Jackson.
Los Angeles Police Department detectives linked Hughes to the three additional slayings through DNA while investigating unsolved murders committed between 1960 and 1997.
He is also suspected in an eighth killing–the slaying of Deanna Wilson, who was discovered Aug. 30, 1990, in a garage at 323 W. 55th St.
In rejecting an automatic motion to reduce the jury’s recommendation from death to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the judge noted that Coleman, Williams and Jackson had all been posed in a sexually explicit manner.
Jurors found true a special circumstance allegation that the teen–who was found dead just after dawn Jan. 22, 1986, in Imperial Park in Inglewood–had been raped and sodomized. She had been suffocated with her face pressed into the ground.
The jury also found true two other special circumstance allegations– multiple murders and a prior murder conviction.
Williams was found dead by two teenagers in the stairwell of a school on 68th Street on May 26, 1986, while Jackson’s body was discovered by a security guard at 4635 W. Pico Blvd. on June 25, 1993. Both women had been strangled.
A number of the victims’ family members were on hand as the sentence was handed down.
Wilson’s sister, Debbie Sallie, called Hughes a “monster” and said “death is what he deserves.”
Coleman’s mother, Linda, told the judge that “there will never be an equitable amount of justice served,” but requested the “maximum penalty” in calling for a death sentence.
Hughes did not speak during the sentencing hearing.
Hughes had been tortured as a child by his mother, defense attorney Aron Laub told the judge.
Hughes’ lawyer told jurors during the trial’s penalty phase that the defendant’s mother was 15 when he was born, suffered psychiatric problems after the deaths of two of her younger children and repeatedly beat him.
“It wasn’t one beating with an extension cord … It was a mother screaming that she was going to kill them,” the defense lawyer told jurors.
Hughes suffered “12 years of endless violence,” Laub said. “That’s not a childhood. That’s a laboratory for destruction.”
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman countered that Hughes was a “psychopathic, sadistic” killer who “deserves to pay the ultimate penalty.”
“Nothing that happened to the defendant as a child could justify what he’s done … This is a defendant who takes joy in inflicting pain on women,” the prosecutor said.
Hughes had positioned his victims’ bodies to further “degrade” them, she said.
“This defendant is just merely evil,” the prosecutor said. “This defendant has more than earned a death sentence.”
After the sentencing, Hughes’ attorney said he expects his client– who he said is in poor health–will die of natural causes in prison “years before his number comes up for execution.”