San Diego Union-Tribune

Death sentence urged for Eubanks in children's slayings

By Minerva Canto
ASSOCIATED PRESS September 7, 1999

VISTA -- A sentencing hearing for a woman convicted of the execution slayings of her four young sons ended Tuesday with the prosecutor urging that she receive the death penalty and her defense attorney pleading for her life.

"Remember the children and consider the horror they must have felt as their mother took aim and fired," prosecutor Bonnie Howard-Regan told jurors.

A few jurors fought back tears and averted their eyes as the prosecutor showed them enlarged photos of each boy with gunshot wounds on the head. At the time of the killings, Brandon was 14, Austin, 7; Brigham, 6; and Matthew, 4.

"If this defendant does not deserve the death penalty, then who does?" Howard-Regan said.

The same San Diego County Superior Court jury that found Susan Eubanks, 35, guilty of four counts of first-degree murder now must decide whether she should receive the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The jury is scheduled to deliberate Wednesday.

Ms. Eubanks killed her four sons on Oct. 26, 1997, after a day spent drinking and arguing with her boyfriend. She also shot herself in the stomach, but paramedics arrived before she died.

She was convicted three weeks ago after the jury deliberated for less than three hours. Ms. Eubanks did not testify during the trial or the penalty phase.

The prosecutor says the murders were designed to get revenge on her boyfriend, ex-boyfriend and estranged ex-husband.

Vince Garcia, one of Ms. Eubanks' attorneys, told attorneys that giving her life imprisonment would mean decades of hardship.

"I suggest that this is a time for punishment, not a time to kill. I ask you to let this troubled life go on until it ends on God's terms," Garcia said.

Her attorneys contend she killed the children in a moment of weakness after several years of fighting addiction to prescription drugs for work injuries and several failed relationships with men. Her judgment clouded by too much alcohol and valium, Ms. Eubanks decided to commit suicide and kill the children because she believed her children might be taken away from her, Garcia said.

"She was broken. She was killing herself," Garcia said. "This was a suicide and she was taking the children with her."

Garcia asked jurors to consider that Eubanks was brought up by alcoholic parents in a home where violence and abuse were prevalent.

Howard-Regan, however, argued that Ms. Eubanks' dysfunctional childhood served only as a smokescreen.

"The problem with that argument is look at people who have that same background and their children are still alive. They haven't killed their children," Howard-Regan said.

Copyright 1999 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.