SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A 43-year-old woman was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for plotting a botched Mother’s Day murder-suicide of her family that left her husband — 30 years her senior — dead and one of her two sons wounded.
Annamaria Magno Gana, scheduled to be sentenced June 3, is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors deliberated for nearly two days before returning the verdicts. They found true a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, along with sentence-enhancing allegations of shooting a gun causing death and shooting a gun causing great bodily injury.
Defense attorney Edward Shkolnikov argued that his client’s breast cancer affected her “state of mind.”
Shkolnikov argued that Gana was deeply depressed by her medical condition and a failing business. She was affected by the chemotherapy medications she was undergoing following a double mastectomy when she attacked her family at their Tustin home, he said.
Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh said the first-degree murder verdicts were justified.
“Your heart can break for people who are depressed, but murder-suicide should never be an acceptable way of dealing with those feelings,” he said. “As a society, morally and legally murder-suicide should never be an option.”
The defendant met her husband, Antonio Potenciano Gana, about 20 years ago in the Philippines, where they lived and worked. Antonio Gana, who was 73 when he was killed, moved the family into a home in Tustin in 2007 after retiring, Baytieh said.
The couple also acquired a UPS mail center franchise and a second home in unincorporated Tustin that they kept for rental income.
When the economy slumped, the family was forced to sell their bigger home and move into the smaller one, the prosecutor said.
“Financial difficulties — that was the main concern she had,” he said.
Meanwhile, the defendant was diagnosed with cancer in October 2010, Baytieh said, and grew depressed during her treatment.
The defendant told the investigator that she was suicidal at the time and planned the murder-suicide over two weeks. She reportedly said, “I wanted my whole family to go with me. I want to kill everyone … No one’s going to suffer from my death.” She also told the investigator she felt guilty because “I was supposed to die with them.”
The family’s 2011 Mother’s Day, started out normally. Her sons and husband giving her cards and gifts and friends dropping by to watch a Lakers game, Baytieh said.
After the friends left, the defendant went to her room, presumably to lie down. She fired a round into the ceiling to draw her husband and sons to the room, Baytieh said.
Antonio Gana was first through the door, so she opened fire on him. A bullet ripped through his chest, Baytieh said.
Her then 16-year-old son, Jose “Tony” Gana, was right behind his father and was shot in the arm as he tried to flee, the prosecutor said.
As the teenager was outside the home calling 911, his then-9-year-old brother, Alfonso, was left inside the home to wrestle the revolver away from his mother, Baytieh said.
The prosecutor played a recording of the 911 call for jurors, in which the older boy exclaims, “My mom shot me with a gun … She shot my dad and he’s dead … Hurry up, please, my brother’s in there.”
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found the defendant in the bedroom cradling her husband and crying as she admitted shooting the victim. She asked the deputies to kill her, Baytieh said.
Shkolnikov told jurors that his client’s father also committed suicide, forcing her to take on more responsibility for caring for her family as she grew up.
Gana told investigators that she had the “best husband,” though he had cheated on her about 10 years before the shooting and they had reconciled, Shkolnikov said.
Annamaria Gana did not respond well to the chemotherapy and the difficulty of running the family’s failing business, Shkolnikov said.
“She’s getting worse, she’s getting weaker,” he said, telling the jury that Gana pulled out her breathing tube shortly after she was taken to a hospital following the shooting.