Triple killer is sentenced to die: Jury rejects Dayva Cross' plea of mental illness

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Dayva Cross should be put to death for the murders of his wife and two stepdaughters near Snoqualmie, a King County Superior Court jury decided yesterday, rejecting pleas by the killer's lawyers that he is mentally ill and should not be executed.

The nine men and three women had deliberated since Wednesday before voting unanimously that Cross, 41, should die for the March 1999 stabbing deaths of his wife, Anouchka Baldwin, and her daughters Salome Holly, 18, and Amanda Baldwin, 14.

As the jury filed out of the courtroom, the foreman said the horror of the slayings outweighed pleas about Cross' mental illness.

"The bloodiness of the killings was extreme, and the innocence of the victims was incredible," said jury foreman Scott Baumann, 54, an airline pilot from Bellevue.

"He's a very depressed person," Baumann added. "It is not enough to be depressed. Depressed people commit suicide. It is no excuse for homicide."

After the verdict was read and Cross, who is in a wheelchair, was being wheeled from the courtroom, he said loudly, "Off to ... Disneyland now, man. Anyone want to come with me?"

Formal sentencing is expected in the next couple of weeks. By law, the case will be sent automatically to the state Supreme Court for review.

Relatives of the slain family left the courthouse without commenting.

Cross pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder last fall, against the advice of his attorneys.

The only sentences that could be applied were death or life in prison without release.

The sentencing phase of his trial was marked by numerous outbursts by Cross, primarily directed at prosecutors.

Every day, Cross called the prosecutors names, and twice he threw water at them. At one point, Cross was moved to a separate room where he watched and listened to the proceedings through a video and audio feed.

Cross has been confined to a wheelchair since he was partially paralyzed during a suicide attempt in jail a few days after the killings.

His attorneys, Richard Warner and Mark Larranaga, argued that Cross is mentally ill, and was so at the time of the crime. Cross' relatives and experts testified he has suffered from a host of disorders for years.

The verdict stunned Cross' attorneys, who had been optimistic that at least one juror would refuse to condemn a mentally ill man. If the verdict had not been unanimous, the sentence would have been life in prison without hope of release.

"I was just devastated and disgusted about being part of the criminal-justice system," Larranaga said. "How they thought he could be a danger in the future is beyond me. For all practical purposes, he'll never walk again. But I think what happened is they saw the crime and they just didn't have the ability to get past that."

Cross' attorneys repeated yesterday that he does not want to be put to death, despite his misbehavior and apparent apathy about the trial.

Prosecutors, though, argued that while anyone who kills three people is not normal, Cross' motives were the result of anger, not mental disturbance. Cross had argued with his wife before taking kitchen knives to her and the two stepdaughters.

The jury foreman yesterday said the level of violence was key to the decision.

"A marital spat was bad, but the fact that the other girls suffered as well was inexcusable," Baumann said. "You're talking about violence to women, and that's one of my touching points. It's something that angers me."

King County sheriff Detective Jim Doyon, who investigated the case, agreed that the victims went through a lot at the hands of Cross.

"I can't imagine the fear and the unknowing that they went through," he said. "Based on the severity of the crime, this was the right decision."

Within minutes of the decision yesterday, Tim Bradshaw, deputy prosecuting attorney, somberly refused to call the decision a victory for his office.

"This ... is not a win-lose type of verdict," he said, "and no pleasure should be taken from such a verdict. Rather, this is the strong voice of the community: sure, grave, unanimous, law-abiding and just."