LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A jury has recommended a death sentence for a 34-year-old man convicted of murdering four people outside a Northridge boarding home three years ago.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated a little over a day before recommending on Tuesday, Dec. 15, that Ka Pasasouk be sent to death row for the Dec. 2, 2012, shooting deaths of Teofilo Navales, 49, of Castaic; Robert Calabia, 34, of Los Angeles; Amanda Ghossein, 24, of Monterey Park; and Jennifer Kim, 26, of Montebello.
Pasasouk is set to be formally sentenced Feb. 5, 2016, by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler.
Pasasouk was found guilty of Nov. 19 of four counts of first-degree murder. He was also convicted of one count each of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with assault with a semiautomatic firearm, for confronting other people nearby shortly before the killings.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, triggering the penalty trial in which they were tasked with determining whether to recommend death or life imprisonment without parole.
In the guilt phase of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told the jury that Pasasouk was “fueled by drugs and alcohol” and had the “perfect opportunity for vengeance,” along with the perfect opportunity for a robbery, when he came across Navales — with whom he had an altercation months earlier — in a dark and confined area and shot him twice.
The prosecutor said Calabia, Ghossein and Kim were shot to death to silence them as potential witnesses as Pasasouk was “trying to get away with murder.”
Defense attorney James Goldstein had urged jurors to consider the lesser charge of second-degree murder, arguing that his client’s judgment was “impaired” by being under the influence and that he could not have premeditated the killings.
In the latest phase of the trial, Akemon told the panel that Pasasouk has a “resume of violence” and has spent 20 years in and out of juvenile and adult correctional facilities.
“He has thumbed his nose at society at every turn in favor of leading a thug life … He is a hardened career criminal,” the prosecutor said. “Tell him he deserves the death penalty for what he has done … In this case, there is only one just punishment, and that is the death penalty.”
The prosecutor said Pasasouk robbed the four victims of their futures, fled the crime scene and discarded the murder weapon in an effort to get away with the killings. He was arrested two days later at a hotel-casino near the Las Vegas Strip.
Another of Pasasouk’s attorneys, Larry Sperber countered that justice has already been served by the jury finding Pasasouk guilty of the crimes.
He told jurors that his client was born at a refugee camp in Thailand and “is not a normal, healthy person.” He acknowledged that Pasasouk “did some terrible things,” and told jurors that he was asking for justice but not mercy for his client.
As early as age 14, Pasasouk was described in one report as having a “very dysfunctional and chaotic early life,” with parents unable to be contacted by a probation officer when their son was 15, Sperber said.
He said that his client has a well-documented history of having a lack of learning skills, suicidal tendencies, alcoholism and drug abuse, and had begged not to be paroled from prison in October 2011 because he knew that he needed help and wanted to remain behind bars.
Pasasouk’s attorney said there was a “lifelong pattern of mental disease that he’s suffering from” and contended that his client is “not a career criminal.”
Jurors heard testimony on Monday, Dec. 14, from the victims’ family members, along with some of Pasasouk’s relatives.
Teofilo Navales’ widow, Heide Valente-Navales, recalled police coming to her workplace to notify her of his death.
“I don’t remember anything after that. I was just crying and crying,” the mother of two said. “My go-to guy is gone. My other half is gone and my heart’s broken.”
Amanda Ghossein’s aunt, Mona, wiped away tears when she was asked about her niece, who was killed two days before her 24th birthday. She said her niece had a daughter who had just turned 1 and who now says that her mother is in heaven.
“I feel her with me all the time,” Mona Ghossein said of her slain niece. “It’s hard to cope … You find yourself crying uncontrollably. She gives me strength.”
Jurors also heard from Pasasouk’s older brother, Torasonh, who is in a substance abuse program and described his parents as drinking “most of the time” during their childhood.
He said their father was often abusive.
“We would get punished … He would hit us,” Pasasouk’s sibling said, explaining that their father hit them if they got out of line and did not come in off the streets at night in a neighborhood where there was a danger of them being shot.
“I’ve been hit by both of them,” he said of his parents.
He said that he began drinking at age 13, and that his younger brother was already drinking by then and had “mental problems.”
Last year, family members of the victims filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Probation Chief Jerry Powers, alleging that they didn’t do enough to protect the public from Pasasouk once he was released from prison in January 2012.
Following a subsequent arrest for drug possession, Pasasouk was released from custody and put into a drug diversion program, despite a long criminal history, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney.
A judge dismissed the civil rights case in August, ruling that the government officials were immune from liability.