Would Finding Jesus Inside The Orange County Jail Aid Killer At His Sentencing?
It took three trials to convict a methamphetamine abuser for a December 2002 shooting rampage that left a vehicle passenger dead, but despite that lengthy battle the killer offered his "sincere condolences" to the daughters of his victim during a June 20 sentencing hearing.
"This was not something that was intentional," a weeping, 49-year-old David Benjamin Rodgers told the women. "I'm truly sorry. We were just partying."
Jeanie Waterson, the 44-year-old passenger in Rodgers' Pontiac Grand Am, was shot in the heart and arm at the intersection of Sand Canyon Avenue and Alton Parkway. Rodgers shot himself in the foot.
The final jury decided the killing wasn't murder but rather manslaughter.
The victim's daughters said they forgive the defendant even though his crime devastated their lives.
"I'll never get to hear my mother's voice or hear her talk to my kids," one daughter said. "But I do forgive him because that's what my mom would have wanted."
In hopes of winning leniency from a potential 33 years to life in prison punishment, Rodgers--a convicted felon prior to the shooting after forcibly sodomizing a 16-year-old boy--told Superior Court Judge James Stotler that he's found God inside the Orange County Jail.
He quoted the Bible repeatedly, noted he coaches other inmates on scripture, proclaimed regular AA meeting attendance and declared himself sober by rejecting all the pruno and drugs he says are routinely available inside the Orange County Jail.
The presentation ended with Rodgers' defense lawyer asking Stotler to give no more than a 22-year sentence by striking one of the defendant's prior strikes.
Homicide prosecutor Susan Price said she appreciated Rodger's statements of remorse, but noted the wild shooting--five shots inside the car--occurred about a year after the defendant emerged from prison on the sex crimes case and when he wasn't allowed to possess a weapon.
Rodger's rap sheet includes burglaries and robberies too.
"He's unable to follow the rules of society," said Price.
"What happened in that car was never clearly described," he said. "A woman was shot in the heart. There were multiple shots. The front windshield was blown out. It was a totally unnecessary killing."
After encouraging Rodgers to "stay on the straight and narrow," the judge handed the defendant a punishment of 25 years to life in prison.
"Thank you, your honor," he replied.
Given that Rodgers has been in custody since 2002, he won 4,829 days of credit to be subtracted from the term.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Price comforted the victim's daughters.
"It's over," she said of the 12-year-old case.