SANTA BARBARA – Confessed killer Garren Musser, 27, was found guilty Thursday of the October 2008 stabbing death of Lisa Zazueta, with a finding of special circumstances that guarantees him a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
In statements to the media following the April 16 verdict, Santa Barbara Assistant District Attorney Ali Neuffer said the jury’s decision was justified based upon evidence that Musser had carefully planned and executed a “sinister plan that is the stuff of nightmares.”
Musser’s defense was focused on Deputy Public Defender Nathan Poulos’ argument that Musser had acted in the heat of passion that Oct. 23rd, and that he’d been personally provoked and stalked by Zazueta – who falsely claimed that she was pregnant with his child – with a barrage of phone calls, text messages and unwelcome personal visits. Telephone records presented in evidence established that Zazueta had made repeated attempts to contact Musser on the night of the murder, and that he had asked her to leave him alone.
Following his arrest in 2008, Musser was questioned by Santa Barbara police Det. Jim Ella in a videotaped interview. At that time Musser admitted to Ella: “I just had it in my mind to kill her if she came over.” That interview further details the events of the murder and concludes with Musser stating: “I’m a cold-blooded killer, man.”
While Neuffer focused upon the allegations of lying in wait and the brutality of knife wounds to the victim, which severed her windpipe and struck her spinal column, Poulos suggested to the jury that the nature of the attack pointed to the “emotional nature” of Musser’s out-of-control attack.
The defense proposition that Musser had felt threatened and was pushed to an emotional brink by his victim was rejected by the jury, which further found him guilty of the special circumstance of lying in wait. Musser is due for sentencing next month, when he is guaranteed a minimum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.