The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a man convicted of murdering a 23-year-old woman during a rape in Glendale nearly four decades ago.
Darrel Mark Gurule, now 59, was found guilty in September 2016 of first-degree murder for Barbara Ballman’s September 1979 shooting death.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a rape and murder with a prior conviction, but deadlocked on a third special circumstance allegation — murder during the course of a robbery.
The jury also deadlocked in the trial’s penalty phase, with 10 members of the panel favoring a life prison term without the possibility of parole and two voting for a death sentence.
The prosecution subsequently announced that it would no longer seek the death penalty against Gurule, who was sentenced in December 2016 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Ballman was shot once in the abdomen on Sept. 20, 1979, at some point after leaving her older sister’s home about five minutes away. She was found dead the following day inside her Volkswagen sedan parked across from Edison Elementary School.
She was naked from the waist down but for a pair of socks and her shirt and bra had been pushed up around her neck, according to the appellate court panel’s ruling.
In a ruling this January, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the evidence “overwhelmingly pointed” to Gurule.
Gurule — who lived near the elementary school at the time of the killing — was already serving a life prison sentence for the 1987 kidnap-murder of Roberto Bruno when he was charged in 2010 with Ballman’s murder after DNA evidence linked him to her killing. Detectives believe Bruno was shot to death as the result of a drug deal gone wrong.
Glendale police said semen evidence was recovered from Ballman, but DNA analysis was not available at the time. When Glendale police re-opened an investigation into Ballman’s killing and submitted the semen evidence to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s crime lab, a match was made with Gurule’s DNA, police said.
During Gurule’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Chung told jurors that witnesses and transcripts show that Gurule also kidnapped and sexually assaulted another woman in 1977, assaulted two brothers in 1979, robbed a man in 1982 and received stolen goods in 1986.
One of Gurule’s attorneys, Philip Peng, told the jury that his client grew up in Echo Park in the 1960s and ’70s, when the area was controlled by warring gangs, and called Gurule’s father “an extremely vicious man with heavy hands,” who regularly beat his wife and their eight children.
During the penalty phase of Gurule’s trial, the victim’s sister told jurors that her sibling moved to California after she did.
“I hate that she … was murdered on my watch,” Linda Benjamin told jurors in Gurule’s trial, reading from a journal she kept after her sister was killed.
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