The California Supreme Court in San Francisco today upheld the death penalty of a Salinas man who killed an 11-year-old girl while burglarizing her home in 1998.
Ronald Wayne Moore, now 58, was convicted in Monterey County Superior Court in 1999 of the first-degree murder of Nicole Carnahan on March 4, 1998.
The jury also found a special circumstance of murder committed during a burglary and robbery, which provided the foundation for the death sentence given to Moore.
Moore, a heroin addict who was in a methadone program, lived in a trailer on property behind the back pasture of the Salinas house in which Nicole and her mother lived.
The mother, Rebecca Carnahan, arrived home from work on March 4 to find the house ransacked and her daughter missing. Nicole normally arrived home on a school bus at 3 p.m., fed the farm animals in the pasture, and did homework until her mother got home, according to testimony at the trial.
Sheriff’s deputies found the girl’s body stuffed between her bed and a wall. The room was splattered with blood, and she had a knife blade lodged in her neck. She had also been beaten on the head with a blunt object.
Jewelry, a stereo and other items taken from the house were found in Moore’s trailer along with a cane, a metal pipe and clothing stained with blood that was linked to Nicole by DNA analysis.
Moore told deputies who interviewed him that day that he had been to the house to ask Nicole for a drink of water, but he denied killing her and said he had seen an unknown Hispanic man in the back yard.
The state high court unanimously rejected a series of arguments Moore raised on appeal, including his claim that the jury should not have been allowed to hear evidence about three interviews with detectives on March 4.
Moore was not told of his right to have a lawyer present until the end of the third interview, which took place at the sheriff’s station. After the detective interviewing him learned that stolen items had been found in his trailer, the detective arrested him, informed him of his rights and ended the questioning when Moore asked for a lawyer.
The court said Moore was not under arrest and was free to leave until that point, and was initially questioned because he was the last person known to have seen Nicole.
“Obviously an important witness, defendant was asked to go to the station voluntarily to give a statement,” Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote.
The panel also turned down Moore’s argument that prosecutors hadn’t proved the special circumstance that he went to the house intending to commit a first-degree burglary and robbery.
“From the prosecution evidence, the jury could reasonably infer that defendant, a heroin addict without the money to pay his electricity bill, prearranged a passage to and from his neighbor’s back yard by removing the fence boards, armed himself with a knife and metal pipe, and donned gloves before going to Carnahan’s house,” Werdegar wrote.
“He then used the weapons he had brought to attack Nicole, ransacked the Carnahan home, taking numerous items large and small, and began moving that property through the fence opening he had made, a process Carnahan interrupted when she came home.”
Moore could continue appeals by filing habeas corpus petitions in state and federal courts.
His attorney in the appeal, Deputy State Public Defender Arnold Erikson, declined to comment on the case. Erikson said a different lawyer would be appointed to handle possible habeas corpus appeals.
In a second death penalty affirmance today, the court upheld the conviction and death sentence of Albert Jones for the murder of an elderly couple, James and Madalynne Florville, during a robbery of their home in Riverside County in 1993.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News
Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.