A Pala man who kidnapped, raped and killed his girlfriend is set to be sentenced today and may spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Mickey David Beauchamp Wagstaff, 27, of Pala, was convicted Dec. 1 at the in French Valley of first-degree murder with the special circumstances of kidnapping and raping his fiancee, Elizabeth "Bipsy" Kellenbarger Amirian, 27, of Temecula.
The Riverside County District Attorney opted not to seek the death penalty for Wagstaff.
The jury deliberated for less than five hours before deciding he stabbed the woman to death in the parking structure of The Promenade mall in Temecula. To read about what happened,
The defense argued against the first-degree murder charge in favor of second-degree because he had no plans to kill. To read about the evidence for that,
The prosecution said he did plan to kill her, which was evidenced by his binding her and keeping her trapped in his van. To read about the evidence for that,.
When the killing happened, Wagstaff was thrown into a state of panic when a sheriff's sergeant unexpectedly knocked on the window of the van where Amirian was tied up. To read about what happened in the van,.
During the trial, the defense argued that the killer was mentally unstable and at several points during interrogations, Wagstaff implied he was possessed by an unseen force when the killing happened. To read about what he said, .
Defense Attorney Renee Rupp also argued against the special circumstance of rape, because no evidence except for a confession from Wagstaff pointed to sexual assault.
To read about the defense argument against the special circumstance of rape, .
Family members gathered outside the courtroom after the verdict was read, where they hugged, cried and smiled.
"We couldn't be happier (about the verdict)," said Michael Plato, the victim's stepfather.