[UPDATED with Hearing Postponed:] Ivan Von Staich, Killer of Ex's Husband and Near-Killer of Her, Seeks Parole Again
Ivan Von Staich--who 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--is once again going before a state parole board that previously approved his release, only to be overturned by Jerry Brown after the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) appealed to the governor.
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On parole for arson in Riverside County in mid-1983, Von Staich hit the jaw of Cynthia Topper, a waitress he'd started dating three years earlier, and threatened to kill her. Pleading for her life, Topper told Von Staich she loved him to stop the abuse. But then she informed Von Staich's halfway house about the incident, 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 her future husband, Robert Topper, and started calling and harassing him. Due to the threats and harassment, Von Staich's parole was revoked.
He was released on Nov. 17, 1983, with orders to stay away from the Toppers. Around 1 a.m. on Dec. 8, 1983, the then-27-year-old arrived at the Toppers' Santa Ana home, cut the outside telephone wires 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.
Awaiting sentencing after acting as his own lawyer and being convicted by a jury of killing Robert and trying to kill Cynthia, Von Staich and another convicted murderer, Robert J. Clark, then 23, of Palm Springs, escaped from Orange County Jail on Jan. 26, 1986, by shimmying down from a rooftop recreational area to freedom via electrical cords and makeshift ropes.