Ivan Von Staich: Killer Loses Parole Battle But Wins the Ugliest Mugshot of the Week War
For reasons known only to the state parole board, the panel found Von Staich suitable to return to polite society, even though he had twice escaped from jail, threatened to kill a judge, nearly killed his ex-girlfriend by bludgeoning her with a claw hammer and fatally shot her new husband.
The crimes that put Von Staich at his current address--the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo--began around 1 a.m. on Dec. 8, 1983, when the then-27-year-old arrived at the Santa Ana home of his ex-girlfriend Cynthia Topper, who by then was married to Robert Topper. The "ex-" can be explained by what happened six months earlier. On parole for arson in Riverside County, Von Staich hit Cynthia, a waitress he met and started dating in 1980, in the jaw and threatened to kill her. Pleading for her life, she told him she loved him to make him stop the abuse.
Cynthia later reported the incident to Von Staich's halfway house, and the parolee threatened to kill her again. Later that month, he broke into her home and stole some photographs. He discovered she was dating Robert Topper and started calling and harassing him. Due to the threats and harassment, Staich's parole was revoked.
He was released on Nov. 17, 1983, with orders to stay away from the Toppers. Just a few weeks later, he cut the outside telephone wires of the Toppers' Santa Ana home with pliers and kicked open the front door. Wearing gloves and armed with two hammers, he walked to the master bedroom and struck Cynthia with the claw hammer before she ran to the kitchen.
Robert, armed with a gun, fired at Von Staich, hitting him and severing one of his fingers. But Von Staich managed to get the gun away from Robert before repeatedly bludgeoning him with the hammer. While Robert was lying face down on the ground, Von Staich fired the gun five times at close range, hitting Mr. Topper in the head, chest and neck.
Von Staich then ran to the kitchen looking for Cynthia. He pistol whipped her and shot her in the uterus before running to a neighboring house to seek help for his wounds. She spent months in a coma before coming out it.