Arizona man convicted of murder in nine Buddhist temple deaths

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2014 12:37 PM

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona man was convicted on Thursday of killing nine people, including six monks, at a Buddhist temple near Phoenix in 1991, in what remains the deadliest mass murder in the state's history.

Jonathan Doody, 39, was found guilty of nine counts of first-degree murder, nine counts of armed robbery and one count each of burglary and conspiracy by a Maricopa County Superior Court jury following a month-long trial.

After a second round of deliberations, the same jurors found aggravating factors, making him eligible for a longer prison sentence. Doody is not eligible for the death penalty under existing law because he was 17 at the time of the killings, at the Wat Promkunaram temple in Waddell, Arizona.

Doody was originally convicted in 1994 of the execution-style slayings, but a U.S. appeals court threw out the decision in May 2011, saying it was based on a coerced confession. A retrial ended in a mistrial in October 2013, when the jury deadlocked.

"Today's verdict confirms that the passage of time has not obscured the guilt of this defendant, nor has it diminished our commitment to seek justice for the nine innocent victims whose lives were senselessly taken," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said following the verdict.

"We now look forward to the imposition of an appropriate sentence that will hold him accountable for this horrible crime," he said.

On August 10, 1991, the bodies of six monks, a novice, a nun and a temple boy were found face down in a circle, each killed by a gunshot to the head. Their living spaces had been ransacked and personal property stolen.

Doody and a high school friend, 16-year-old Alessandro "Alex" Garcia, came under suspicion when a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle owned by a friend was found during an unrelated vehicle search and identified as the murder weapon.

Garcia pleaded guilty to nine counts of first-degree murder in 1993 and was sentenced to 271 years in prison. He testified in person and on tape against Doody during the trial.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Amanda Kwan)