LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Two men were convicted of first-degree murder today for the shooting death of a Lomita woman who was suspected of being “complicit” in the deaths of her two husbands 19 years apart in the Philippines.
The Torrance Superior Court jury deliberated approximately two hours before
finding Eric Santander Delacruz, 31, of Carson, and Fernando Romero, 27, of San
Bernardino County, guilty in the April 26, 2007, slaying of Delacruz’s great
aunt, Sonya Rios Risken.
Jurors also convicted Delacruz and Romero of conspiracy to commit murder, according to Deputy District Attorney John Lewin. Risken, 60, was shot once in the back of the head by “someone who went in there and wanted Sonya Rios Risken dead,” Lewin told jurors in his opening statement last month.
The prosecutor said the evidence showed that the defendants — who were
on active duty in the U.S. Navy at the time — planned for the murder to be
carried out after Romero had already flown back to Los Angeles and Delacruz was still out at sea on the USS Ronald Reagan.
The defendants traveled within blocks of Risken’s home and one or both of them “basically executed Sonia Rios Risken as she stood inside her hallway,’ Lewin said. The house, which had an iron security gate and a security camera that allowed the victim to see who was outside, was completely undisturbed.
The woman’s son — who had grown concerned about his mother after he and
another family member were unable to reach her — went to her home and found
her dead in a pool of blood, Lewin said.
Risken was still wearing diamond earrings, a diamond ring and a tennis bracelet, and had nearly $1,800 in a purse nearby, according to Lewin. Evidence “strongly suggests that Sonya was complicit” in the murders of her two American husbands — retired U.S. Marine Earl John `Duke’ Bourdeau and retired Navy officer Law “Larry” Risken — who were killed 19 years apart in the Philippines after telling Risken that they wanted a divorce, the prosecutor said.
Four days after the killing, Delacruz waited outside the office of his
great-aunt’s attorney to try to find out what he would be getting, but didn’t
wind up getting anything, Lewin said.
The woman was dubbed “The Lomita Black Widow” in media reports, and
was featured in a Daily Breeze investigative series and a segment of CBS’ “48
Lewin told jurors that Delacruz attempted to frame Sonia Risken’s son, John Bourdeau, by setting up an e-mail account in Bourdeau’s name and offering
in one e-mail to “get someone to kill Sonia Rios Risken.’
Delacruz — who referred to the victim as being like a grandmother to him — also repeatedly tried to point sheriff’s deputies in Bourdeau’s direction. Cell phone records show that there were repeated phone conversations on phone numbers belonging to the two defendants in the days leading up to the crime.
Defense attorneys argued that the prosecution’s case was built entirely
on circumstantial evidence. Delacruz’s attorney, Donald E. Levinson, told jurors that the prosecution’s case was “based on building a mountain out of a molehill.’
Levinson said his client was not identified by anyone as being at the
scene of the shooting and noted that the prosecution had cellular telephone
records, but that it was unclear what was discussed during the phone calls.
“It’s all supposition,” he said. Romero’s attorney, Ludlow B. Creary Jr., told jurors that prosecutors did not have any eyewitnesses linking his client to the killing, either. “You’ve got nothing but some phone records … and some pings on a local cell phone tower,’ Creary said.
Both men are facing 50 years to life in prison, with sentencing scheduled for March 16 before Judge James Brandlin, the prosecutor said.
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