LA Forensics: West Hollywood Hustle
During a pretrial hearing, the attorney defending Chavez tried to have the statements made during the prison interviews excluded, claiming Chavez had felt coerced by promises made by the interrogating officers to leave his brother alone. Thus, his statement had not been voluntary. In addition, there had been problems with the tape recorder, so the integrity of the information was questionable. One more approach considered was that Juan had suffered head injuries as a child from the beatings inflicted by his grandmother, and the damage had influenced his aggression.
Nevertheless, the evidence against him was apparently persuasive, because a week and a half into his trial at the Los Angeles Superior Court, he had his attorney stop the proceedings.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Duarte agreed to a deal: life without parole in exchange for an admission to the five murders and related burglary charges. Evidence against Chavez in some of the cases was weak, Duarte knew, so trying them in court could prove difficult. He knew one or two of the cases were strong enough to win, but the result would probably be the same as the plea deal.
"The victims' families and the police were all in agreement with this one," he told Steve Berry for the Los Angeles Times. Chavez was convicted and was also required to pay $10,000 in restitution.
On June 22, 1999, nearly a full decade after the last of the murders had occurred, Juan Rodriguez Chavez was given five consecutive life sentences. He made no statement and none of the victim's families were present in the courtroom. The murder that was once associated with the Randolph homicide in 1986 was not included in Chavez's series, although the police believed he might have killed more men than he admitted.
For the detectives involved, the end result of their coordinated efforts was gratifying. "In murder [investigations], it's about the hunt," said Detective Luper. "The satisfaction in any hunt is when you bring in the kill, locating what you need to locate. There's a great sense of satisfaction and relief that you were able to track down the individual and then ultimately get him to 'fess up."
Apparently Chavez was telling the truth when he said that what he'd done had bothered him. Six months after his conviction, on September 9 (9/9/99), he used a sheet from his prison bed to commit suicide by asphyxiation.
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