On October 27, 1989, in Shasta County,
Robert Edward Maury was sentenced to death for the murders of Averill
Weeden, Belinda Jo Stark and Dawn Berryhill between 1985 and 1987.
High Court Upholds Death Sentence in Shasta County
Justices Unanimously Affirm in
Case of Redding Man Who Called Tip Line, Was Rewarded for Leading Police
By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer/Appellate
Friday, April 25, 2003
The state Supreme Court
yesterday upheld the death sentence for a Redding man who sought to
collect rewards from the sponsors of a tipster hotline for calling in
the locations of three bodies over a two-year period and was later
charged with killing the victims himself.
Justice Ming Chin, writing for a
unanimous court, said there was plenty of circumstantial evidence to
prove that Robert Edward Maury of Happy Valley committed the murders, in
addition to having robbed one victim, attempted to rape another, and
forcibly raped another woman.
A Shasta Superior Court jury
convicted him of all of the crimes in a 1989 trial.
Maury claimed he was innocent.
But he read a statement at the penalty phase telling jurors that since
they felt he was guilty, they should return a death verdict.
Jurors obliged. Judge William R.
Lund denied the automatic motion to modify the sentence and condemned
Maury to death.
Suspected in First Murder
Police said they first focused
on Maury after the disappearance of his roommate, Averill Weeden, in
1985. But they were unable to prove at the time that Maury killed her,
or that it was Maury who called in the location of the body to Secret
Witness of Shasta County about a month later.
Secret Witness was established
by a local civic association and gives rewards for information about
local crimes on the recommendation of an advisory board made up of law
The caller who inquired about a
possible reward for information about the Weeden murder never claimed it.
But the Secret Witness employee who took the call testified that the
same person called about one of the murders, and about several other
Maury, who identified himself by
name in some of the calls, was observed by police when he picked up $500
at a designated pickup point as a reward for calling in the location of
the body of the third murder victim. The prosecution case included
fingerprint evidence, testimony that Maury had bragged about strangling
a woman, and a bartender’s identification of Maury as having been in the
bar with the third victim, a woman Maury claimed to have never met in
Prosecutors also presented
evidence that Maury made numerous inconsistent statements about Weeden’s
whereabouts following her disappearance.
Maury’s defense argued that
Weeden was killed by a man whom she was involved with in buying drugs,
and that the killer forced Maury to strike her head with a rock after
she was already dead. The defense also disputed that it was Maury who
called Secret Witness about Weeden.
Maury did call Secret Witness
about the later crimes, the defense acknowledged, but argued that he had
found the bodies and was not the killer. His secret witness calls, the
defense said, were consistent with his history as a paid police
In affirming the convictions and
death sentences, the high court yesterday rejected Maury’s claim that
the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by taping some of his
calls to Secret Witness without obtaining a warrant.
Secret Witness is maintained by
a private association not subject to the Fourth Amendment, and Maury
could not have reasonably expected the police to respect his privacy
once they were told that a caller to the tip line might be reporting
crimes he himself had committed, Chin said.
Citing testimony from board
members, Chin wrote:
“To guarantee anonymity to such
a criminal would be contrary to the purpose of the Secret Witness
program, i.e., to solve crimes.”
The case is People v. Maury, 03
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE:
MO: Strangled women
(Averill Weeden, Dawn
Berryhill and Belinda Jo Stark)
collected "secret witness" rewards for directing police to
DISPOSITION: Condemned, 1989.