HomeCity NewsSerial Killer Denied Sentencing Appeal

Serial Killer Denied Sentencing Appeal

By City News Service

The California Supreme Court has refused to review the case of a former Marine who was convicted of the cold-case murders of two women in the 1980s, including one in Burbank.

Horace Van Vaultz, now 69, is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for three murders, including the June 9, 1986, asphyxiation of Mary Duggan, a 22-year-old Reseda resident whose body was found in the trunk of her car in an empty parking lot in Burbank.

Vaultz was convicted in August 2022 of first-degree murder for the killings.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during a rape involving both women and murder during sodomy involving 20-year-old Selena Keough in 1981.

Vaultz had been acquitted decades earlier of the December 1986 killing of 25-year-old Janna Rowe in Ventura County, with DNA evidence showing in 2019 that DNA found in sperm from Rowe’s body matched his DNA.

While on the stand in his own defense during his trial for the murders of Keough and Duggan, the defendant told jurors that he didn’t remember Keough or Duggan and was not responsible for their killings or that of Rowe, whom he admitted he knew.

“My semen means I may have had sex with the person. It doesn’t mean I killed them,” Vaultz said.

“I’m telling you I didn’t kill anyone,” he said, when questioned about DNA evidence.

In an April 12 ruling, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was “overwhelming” evidence of Vaultz’s guilt.

“Vaultz’s testimony was anything but credible,” the appellate court panel found in its opinion. “When three women who were strangled to death were found to have the defendant’s DNA inside them, his response of not remembering two of them, is not the most convincing evidence.”

The appellate court panel noted in its ruling that the defense claimed “prosecutorial misconduct,” writing that it “cannot condone” comments made by a prosecutor while Vaultz was being cross-examined.

But the panel also noted in its opinion, “Given the insurmountable evidence against Vaultz, no miscarriage of justice occurred.”

The case marked the first criminal prosecution in Los Angeles County involving investigative genetic genealogy, in which detectives access commercial DNA databases, load DNA material from the crime and find a relative’s match that can point toward a suspect and collect their DNA, then-District Attorney Jackie Lacey said at the time.

Vaultz, by then a Bakersfield resident, was arrested in Inglewood during a November 2019 traffic stop by Burbank police in connection with the killings of Keough and Duggan.

Then-Burbank Police Department Chief Scott LaChasse credited “more contemporary technology” with helping to identify Vaultz as the suspect.

First published in the June 29 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]