Three-time killer spared again

Three-time convicted murderer Eugene Nunnery's life has been spared for the second time.

Nunnery terrorized, robbed and killed Hispanic laborers in the valley in the late summer of 2006 and is on death row for one of the murders.

A jury on Tuesday sentenced the 30-year-old killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Sept. 15, 2006, shooting death of Antonio Perez-Martinez.

Last week, the same jury convicted Nunnery of six felonies, including first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for the murder count during a weeklong penalty hearing.

Judge Donald Mosley will sentence Nunnery for the other felonies later this month.

Nunnery, who as a youth was nicknamed "Tupac" because he looked like the late rapper Tupac Shakur, smiled after learning he wouldn't be put to death for Perez-Martinez's murder.

Defense attorneys argued during the penalty phase that Nunnery suffered from a mental defect and that the jury should consider that as a mitigating factor in determining his sentence.

"We are satisfied with the attention that the jury paid to the brain damage Eugene suffered as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome," Special Public Defender David Schieck said afterward.

Prosecutor Robert Daskas said that while he accepted and respected the jury's verdict, "we believe we provided the jury with compelling evidence to warrant a death sentence, including two additional murders and a host of other robberies and violent crimes that Nunnery committed."

Nunnery shot and killed Saul Nunez Suastegui during a September 2006 robbery. A jury in 2008 convicted Nunnery of first-degree murder in Suastegui's slaying and sentenced him to death. That verdict is under appeal.

During the trial and in front of the victim's family, Nunnery told the jury that he had no remorse for the slaying and would kill again if let go.

A jury in 2009 convicted Nunnery of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon for shooting and killing reported drug dealer Raphael Alfred in August 2006. Nunnery was sentenced to life in prison by a district judge after a jury was hopelessly deadlocked on whether to sentence him to death.

Nunnery's attorneys decided not to appeal that verdict. If the verdict was overturned, Nunnery would likely face the death penalty again in a new trial.

Schieck said he would discuss with Nunnery whether to appeal the conviction for the Perez-Martinez slaying.

Nunnery and his crew of three men targeted Hispanic day laborers, including Suastegui, 29, and Perez-Martinez, 42, in street robberies because he thought they wouldn't report the crimes to police, he told investigators.

Nunnery confessed to the slayings and even admitted to detectives that the robberies escalated to killings after he grew angry that the victims tried to run away. He said he killed 24-year-old Alfred because the victim had shortchanged him in a $50 marijuana deal.

Prosecutors said that during the monthlong crime spree, Nunnery tried to kill 11 people and committed several robberies and at least one home invasion.

Nunnery also has been convicted of dozens of felonies relating to the crime spree, resulting in prison sentences totaling hundreds of years.

Nunnery was born into poverty in California in 1979. His mother, a prostitute, died from alcohol abuse when he and his two siblings were young.

Their father abandoned the family, and Nunnery became the father figure for his younger sister and brother. He passed through more than a dozen foster homes as a youth.

The three members of Nunnery's crew either have been convicted or pleaded guilty to related crimes and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@ or 702-380-1039.