A prosecutor told jurors today that DNA evidence links a man to the rape and murder of a woman in her Silver Lake apartment nearly four decades ago, while the defendant's attorney said his client was never inside the woman's residence and did not commit the crime.
Harold Anthony Parkinson, 60, is charged with the August 1980 killing of Stephanie Sommers, who was bludgeoned in the head with an eight-pound weight and was stabbed 16 times in apartment in the 3500 block of Marathon Street.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office opted not to seek the death penalty against Parkinson, who could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the 36-year-old woman's slaying.
"Tragically, this case is about the brutal rape and murder that she (the victim) suffered at the hands of the defendant 39 years ago," Deputy District Attorney Lowrie Mendoza told the downtown Los Angeles jury hearing the case.
The case went unsolved for several decades until cold case detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department got a lead that Parkinson -- who had lived a mile away from the victim -- could be a suspect in the killing, the prosecutor said.
A DNA sample collected from Parkinson was consistent with the DNA profile from a sperm sample collected from the victim, who had grown up in Redondo Beach, Mendoza told jurors. Sommers had briefly been married to a man, but had subsequently told some of her friends that she was a lesbian, the prosecutor said.
Parkinson's attorney, Jesus Lopez, told jurors that Sommers "had sex with Mr. Parkinson" within five days of her death.
But the defense lawyer said there was "not one shred of evidence ... that will place Mr. Parkinson in that apartment," where she had struggled with her assailant before being slain.
"Mr. Parkinson did not kill her. Mr. Parkinson did not rape her," Lopez said. "The simple truth is that Mr. Parkinson did not commit this crime."
The judge refused to allow jurors to hear that Parkinson is serving a 15-year-to-life sentence for an unrelated murder in Los Angeles in 1981. Authorities said he was behind bars at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison when forensic evidence linked him to Sommers' killing.
Sommers' sister, Sheridan Roberts, who was called as the prosecution's first witness, told jurors that she and her mother had both been trying to reach her younger sibling before learning that she had been found dead.
The victim's nephew, Kelly Roberts, said he had been waiting for his "Auntie Steph" to pick him up for two days for a trip to Magic Mountain as a belated birthday gift and had unsuccessfully been trying to reach her. He said his mother ordered him out of the house when the phone rang and he went crying to a neighbor, who walked him back home, went inside the house and came back out to inform him that his aunt had been "brutally murdered."