A state appeals court has upheld the murder convictions and life sentence of a Vallejo man who doused his ex-girlfriend with gasoline and lit her on fire inside his car, causing the deaths of her two young children.
The Contra Costa County Superior Court convictions and sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for Mark Fregia, 41, were unanimously upheld by a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Six-year-old Devlin Weaver and 2-year-old Daelin Fregia were sitting in the back of the car being driven by Fregia in Pinole on Dec. 18, 2003. They died when the car ignited after Fregia poured gasoline on their mother, Erin Weaver, from a large soda bottle and set her on fire with a cigarette lighter.
Erin Weaver, 33, suffered burns to 85 percent of her body, but survived. She jumped out of the car and rolled on the ground to extinguish the flames and was unable to get back into the burning vehicle to rescue her children.
Fregia did not try to save the children, according to witnesses, and escaped by hijacking the car of a motorist who stopped to help. He was arrested in San Francisco the next day.
Daelin Fregia was the child of both Fregia and Weaver and Devlin Weaver was Erin Weaver’s child from a previous relationship.
Weaver testified she had left Fregia in 2002 after he became abusive. She said that on the day of the murders, he had persuaded her to allow him to drive her and the children on a trip to buy toys as Christmas presents.
Fregia testified that he had meant to threaten Weaver with the gasoline and lighter, but didn’t intend to kill her or the children.
He was convicted of two counts of murder, the attempted voluntary manslaughter of Weaver, kidnapping, mayhem, arson and carjacking.
Prosecutors sought a death penalty, but the Contra Costa County jury opted for a sentence of life in prison without parole.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the appeals court rejected a claim by Fregia, who is African-American, that his trial was unfair because prosecutors excluded a 20-year-old African-American man from the jury.
The court said prosecutors provided a reasonable, non-racial explanation when they said they excluded the jury candidate not because of his race but because he was young and said he had never thought much about whether he could impose a death penalty.