Sunday, November 8, 2009

I-5 serial killer sentenced to life without parole

By Layla Bohm

[Lodi, CA]News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009 6:03 AM PST

They were daughters and sisters. Some were mothers. All were victims of Roger Reece Kibbe. And when the six women were raped and murdered by Kibbe, their family members were never the same.
On Thursday, some of those family members cried and glared at a stone-faced Kibbe, now 70, as he was sentenced to six terms of life in prison with no possibility of parole. He pleaded guilty to the charges in September, in a deal to avoid the death penalty.The family members also had a chance Thursday to publicly say just how much their lives had changed in the decades since their daughters and sisters went missing.

Between 1977 and 1986, Kibbe spent a lot of time on Interstate 5, and at the same time women began disappearing, then turning up dead. The crimes gathered attention, and the media soon dubbed the suspect the "I-5 Strangler," since that road seemed to be a frequent theme.

"There's one question that I'd like to ask: Why? Why did you take the lives which you have not the rights to? You took my daughter, you took these other people's daughters," said Thomas Brown, father of 19-year-old Stephanie Brown, whose body was found July 15, 1986, off Highway 12. Brown was one of the victims that investigators had long believed Kibbe had killed. At the time, science wasn't able to link them. Then in 2003, DNA linked Brown's death to Kibbe. Around the same time, another link was made with another victim.

San Joaquin County Sheriff's Detective David "Vito" Bertocchini, who had handled the Brown investigation and never forgotten it, went to see Kibbe in prison. Kibbe waived his right to remain silent, and he began telling investigators about his victims.

Kibbe even went with them in a helicopter to try finding one of the bodies. By then, 17 years had passed since Brown had been killed.

The young woman was one of four daughters, whom her mother often called her "Little Women," after the Louisa May Alcott book. Stephanie Brown went to pick up her roommate who needed a ride home from a bar, but she took a wrong turn and got on I-5. Her car was found at Hood Franklin Road.

She was the youngest of the six victims Kibbe admitted killing. The oldest was 29-year-old Barbara Ann Scott, who was kidnapped in Pittsburg on July 3, 1986, less than two weeks before Brown was killed. Scott was raped, killed and dumped at Lone Tree Golf Course in Contra Costa County.
 Her sister, Pamela Reed, asked Kibbe to look at her as she spoke, but he looked straight ahead through the hour-long sentencing. "I cannot fathom how a so-called human being could do such things to a woman," Reed said. "I thank God that you will never hurt another woman for the rest of your pathetic life.

For years, Reed hasn't displayed Scott's photo in her home, saying the pain was too great. But, she said while fighting back tears, "When I get home today I am hanging her picture on the wall. We will celebrate her life from this day forward.

Some family members have managed to forgive Kibbe, including Brown's mother. They said it was their way to honor their daughters and instead focus on them. Another mother, Carmen Anselmi, could barely speak one sentence before she broke down sobbing. All I can say is that he took her away from me, but I still forgive him," said Anselmi, whose daughter, Charmaine Sabrah, 25, was kidnapped near Thornton on Aug. 17, 1986.

For Anselmi, the past 23 years have also been filled with a sense of guilt: The mother and daughter had traveled from Sacramento to Stockton for an evening of dancing, and they were heading home when their car broke down on I-5. Kibbe stopped his two-seater car and offered to drive them one at a time, since he only had one extra seat. Sabrah had an infant son at home, so she went first. Her mother never saw her again, and Sabrah's body was later found in Amador County.

The son Sabrah left behind has since been raised by his grandmother. To add to the family's sorrows, shortly before her death Sabrah's husband had taken their two children to his native Jordan. He never returned, and the family hasn't had contact with them; her remaining son doesn't know his siblings.

That son, Sabri Sabrah, stood before the judge with his arm around his grandmother. He clenched his left hand as he spoke briefly of Kibbe: "All I know is that I hope he burns in hell for all eternity and that he suffers for every person he has hurt."

Patrick Green, a relative of another victim, 25-year-old Katherine Quinones, also struggled to remain composed. "I'm the only brother of Katherine Kelly Quinones. She left a son and a daughter," he said before choking up, turning and striding quickly out of the courtroom, never returning.

Kibbe picked up Quinones on the streets of downtown Sacramento on Nov. 5, 1986. He raped and murdered her, then dumped her body at Lake Berryessa in Napa County.

That is also where he told investigators that he dumped the body of 21-year-old Lou Ellen Burleigh. She disappeared Sept. 11, 1977, after going to what she thought was a job interview in a Walnut Creek shopping center.

Despite multiple searches, with Kibbe in tow, investigators have never found Burleigh's body. Though 32 years have passed since her death, her mother and brothers said Thursday that they still mourn the many holidays they've been unable to spend with her.

"He took that time away from our life. I believe that in this case an eye for an eye is just as the Bible says, but I have to forgive just as the Bible says," said her brother, Chris Burleigh.

Kibbe was also sentenced for kidnapping Lora Heedick, 21, on April 21, 1986, in Modesto. She was raped and murdered, then dumped in the Brannon Island area near Isleton. Her family could not attend the sentencing, said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Mayo. As for an actual motive, that remains elusive. Investigators believe Kibbe is a sociopath. His lawyers stopped just short of agreeing.

"I don't know if he's a sociopath, but he's certainly different from the rest of us," said defense attorney Jan David Karowsky. Since Kibbe pleaded guilty six weeks ago, he has undergone three days of interviews with a psychologist, which was part of the plea deal.

The psychologist noted many of the things Bertocchini had — that he always saw himself as the victim. Kibbe saw his mother as a tyrant, and he even dwelled on one time when an officer pulled him over and he felt it was unjust, Bertocchini said.

As a teenager, Kibbe stuttered and wet the bed, which point to something wrong in his childhood, said his other attorney, Deputy Public Defender Miriam Lyell.

Kibbe did not speak during the sentencing. Karowsky instead made an apologetic statement on his behalf, looking directly at the families.Victims' family members shook their heads and said afterward that they don't believe Kibbe is sorry. One victim's brother, Carl Burleigh, noted that Kibbe had caused pain and loss to his own family, too.

"Many people have had much harder lives than him. There is simply no excuse for the choices he made. He is simply weak and cowardly. He shows that today by hiding behind Lady Justice," Carl Burleigh said in court. "His greatest act is that when he dies he will be used as fertilizer

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