SANTA ANA, Calif., – A death sentence was handed down today for a man who raped, tortured and killed an 84-year-old Anaheim widow in her home.
Anthony Darnell Wade, 29, of Los Angeles, was convicted Sept. 6 of the rape and murder of Elizabeth “Bessie” Mae Whyman, who was attacked around midnight on Jan. 10, 2010, in the 2400 block of East Paradise Road.
Jurors recommended last month that Wade be executed for the crime, and Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler agreed.
Whyman’s friends and family told the judge how they miss the victim.
“I spoke with her at least once a week,” Jeff Bohannon said of his aunt. “Her house was a haven … I thought of her every day before the murder and I think of her every day since.”
Whyman’s neighbor and friend, Jacqueline Botz, said she misses “Bethisms,” including the victim’s “hat of the day.”
Mr. Wade took these and other joys away from us on that January day,” Botz said, adding that Wade’s troubled upbringing was no excuse for what he did.
“No matter how difficult his life was as a young person, he didn’t have the right to take her life away,” she told Stotler. “We were blessed to have known her.”
Another friend, Michael Flinner, told Wade he deserved his punishment.
“I only wish you could, yourself, feel the fear and pain” the victim experienced, Flinner said. “Bess made all of us better people … Whatever it was, Bess could make it better.”
Lori Laucik, the victim’s daughter-in-law, said she was having nightmares about Whyman’s murder in the run-up to the trial. The nightmares grew more frightening during testimony, because the details of the attack were “worse than I could even imagine.”
Laucik noted that her daughter was nearly 2 when her grandmother was killed.
“All she has are pictures and the knowledge a bad man killed her grandmother,” Laucik said. “I don’t tink we will ever stop grieving the way she died.”
During the penalty phase of the trial, defense attorney Andrew Nechaev told jurors that Wade had a family history of schizophrenia, was diagnosed as bipolar and was passed around by relatives throughout his childhood.
“You are here to judge his entire life,” Nechaev said, urging jurors not to judge his client solely based on Whyman’s murder.
“It is not our intention to minimize, justify or excuse this senseless, tragic crime,” Nechaev said.
Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh countered that Whyman “was put through hell” and described the victim as “one of the most beautiful human beings you will ever get to hear about.”
Hours after fleeing Whyman’s home, Wade tried to buy about $400 worth of merchandise at a Food 4 Less store in San Bernardino with one of her credit cards. He was arrested by sheriff’s deputies who were sent to the store on a report of a fight about 7:15 a.m. that Sunday.
Deputy Donald Zehms testified that when he arrived, store employees had Wade on the ground after a dispute erupted when he tried to use a student ID along with a credit card in Whyman’s name.
Zehms said Wade had two wallets on him — one with an ID and credit cards belonging to Whyman’s late husband — and car keys to her white Chevrolet Impala, which turned out to be full of belongings stolen from her home.
Along with first-degree murder, Wade was convicted of elder abuse, first-degree robbery, torture, forcible rape and car theft. Jurors also found true sentencing enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury to someone older than 70, and special circumstance allegations of committing murder during the commission of rape, torture, robbery and burglary.