A transient is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering an 89-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman in the senior citizen’s Culver City home about 4 1/2 years ago, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Zackariah Timothy Lehnen, 35, was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder for the stabbing and beating deaths of Lucien Bergez and Erica Escobar, according to Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, along with an allegation that Lehnen had used a knife during the commission of the crime.
Bergez and Escobar were found dead at Bergez’s home around 10 a.m. May 3, 2011, and may have been killed as long as two days before. Lehnen was arrested two days after the bodies were discovered.
Jurors heard an audio recording of Lehnen’s statement in jail to a man who had agreed to cooperate with police, Modder said. Lehnen admitted to the man that he was involved in the deadly attack, according to the prosecutor.
Lehnen told the man that he beat Escobar after she refused to have sex with him and stomped Bergez after he tried to intervene, according to the prosecutor.
Lehnen had met Bergez in the neighborhood about a year earlier and had gone to his home on occasion to try to get work, Modder said.
Escobar hadn’t met Bergez before and was in the “wrong place” at the wrong time when she met Lehnen shortly before the attack, the prosecutor said.
The District Attorney’s Office decided against seeking the death penalty against Lehnen, who is due back in court for sentencing Jan. 7.
—City News Service