People v. Ray

Decision Date27 July 1967
Docket NumberCr. 5672
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Claude RAY, Jr., Defendant and Appellant.

Barbara Ashley Phillips, San Francisco, James M. Weinberg, Universal City, of counsel, for appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Albert W. Harris, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert R. Granucci, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, for respondent.

SIMS, Associate Justice.

Defendant has appealed from a judgment sentencing him to life imprisonment following jury verdicts which found him guilty of murder in the first degree in connection with the charged infanticide of his seven-year-old daughter, and thereafter fixed the penalty at life imprisonment.

Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in proceedings for the selection of the jury, in rulings which admitted evidence over his objections, in the failure to grant a mistrial because of a concededly prejudicial unresponsive answer volunteered by a witness for the prosecution, in the failure of the court to prevent the jurors from observing him handcuffed, and in instructions given and refused. He also urges that the prosecutor was guilty of prejudicial misconduct in his argument to the jury. An examination of the record, upon which his contentions are necessarily based, in the light of established principles of law, reveals no prejudicial error, and the judgment must be affirmed.

Statement of Facts

The defendant's seven-year-old daughter Renay, and her nine-year-old sister Jeanette disappeared on Monday, October 4, 1965. On Sunday, October 10, 1965, defendant was arrested, following the discovery of Renay's body.

The body was found at Schooner Gulch, which is located about three and one-half miles south of Point Arena on the Mendocino County coast. It was found accidentally by a family looking for seaweed. The body was at the bottom of a 90-foot cliff, among some rocks, where the tide washes in and out. It could not be positively stated that the body had always been in this position. However, since there was little evidence of destruction of tissue by marine life, the autopsy surgeon concluded the body had not been in the water for a prolonged period. The point where the body was found is difficult to reach, and is not noticeable from the highway. There are several areas near Schooner Gulch, including a turnout directly over where the body was found, where a body could have been dropped directly into the water, and where one could drive a vehicle and not be observed from the road.

The autopsy indicated that the victim had been dead between five to seven days. The cause of death was asphyxiation, probably by smothering. There were bruises on the body that had occurred before death. The autopsy surgeon felt that it was unlikely that the child had fallen from the cliffs to the spot where she was found since there was no evidence of broken bones. There was no evidence that the little girl had been sexually molested immediately prior to her death, but there was evidence of a manual entry of her vaginal tract either some considerable time prior to death or shortly thereafter.

The arrest of defendant and his conviction were based on circumstantial evidence. He was supposed to have taken the children to school in Napa on that Monday morning. The children were absent from school. Defendant before and after the discovery of the body consistently maintained that he had delivered the girls to school and that, to think things over and look for work, he had taken a ride from Napa out to the coast and north (past Schooner Gulch), inland to Cloverdale, and then returned.

Defendant and his wife, Marlene, were married in 1950. They had five children: Audrey, Thomas, Jeanette, Renay and John. The family had, for the most part, lived in Napa between 1950 and 1965. The marriage was troubled. Defendant was considered a failure. Although it was not brought out until the penalty trial, defendant in 1956 had committed himself to an institution after unconsciously trying to choke one of the children, he had attempted suicide twice, and he had had episodic periods of disorientation. In addition, defendant and his wife had many arguments about their eldest child, Audrey.

As a result of the arguments about Audrey, defendant had, as early as 1959, threatened to kill his wife and children. The family, however, remained together until 1965. In January of that year, Mrs. Ray instituted divorce proceedings and the couple separated. Some two weeks later, defendant told his wife that if she did not return to him he would blow Audrey's head off, and would put them all 'six foot under.' Audrey was placed in a foster home and defendant returned to his family. In June of 1965, defendant again threatened his family. In August 1965 Mrs. Ray took the children to Salt Lake City, but she returned in about a week and resumed living with defendant.

Sometime in August the Ray family was out driving when they passed Mrs. Ray's mother, her brother, and Audrey driving in the opposite direction. Both cars stopped and Mrs. Ray got out of the car. Defendant told Mrs. Ray to get back in, that she was not to see Audrey anymore. There was an argument, and defendant attempted to drive away and prevent the meeting. However, Mrs. Ray and the children ran from the car. At this point, defendant again threatened the lives of his family.

Mrs. Ray and the children did not return to the family's apartment, and eventually made their home with a Mr. and Mrs. Holland. During a visit to his family at the Hollands', defendant indicated to Mr. Holland that he would rather see his family dead than beggars or bums.

Defendant also indicated to Mrs. Ray's father that he had purchased a gun, and that he was going to do some killing. Mrs. Ray's sister, brother-in-law, and a neighbor heard defendant either threaten to kill his family or threaten to 'kill them all.'

Defendant left in September for a visit to Kentucky, his native state, but first stopped at Tuolumne, at Mrs. Ray's mother's house, and asked where his family was. After his mother-in-law refused to tell him, defendant declared: 'Well, I will get the girls first and then the boys and then I will get you.'

In late September, Mrs. Ray received a call from defendant. He told her he was returning from Kentucky, and asked her to contact a tannery in Berkeley where he had previously worked.

On Sunday, October 3, 1965, the day before the children's disappearance, defendant returned to Napa. During that day Mrs. Ray had been in the process of moving from the Hollands' to an apartment. Mrs. Ray saw defendant during the day and arranged to meet him at the home of Velva Prince, where Mrs. Ray's father was then living.

Defendant and his wife had another argument at the Princes', overheard by Mrs. Prince. During the argument, over who was to have the children, defendant told his wife he wanted to see her look at four walls, he wanted her to see how well her mind would stand up to looking at four walls 'without any kids.' Defendant declared he was going to have the children at least half the time, and, if he could not, he was going to see that his wife did not. Mrs. Ray then agreed that she would leave the children at Mrs. Prince's home for a few days so that defendant could have a chance to be with them.

At the new apartment, with defendant present, Mrs. Ray prepared the children's lunches and clothing for the following day, and gave defendant one dollar for milk. It was arranged that defendant would take the children to school the next morning, and that if she did not call or go out to the Princes' residence he could pick up the children after school. Defendant, in the company of his son Tom, then returned to the Princes' with the children's provisions for the next day. At about 9 p.m. defendant returned to his wife's apartment. Mrs. Ray testified that there was a long conversation in which she told defendant she was going to divorce him, and had no intention of reconciling. Defendant indicated he would get a job and take care of his family, except for Audrey. His wife stated that he declared that no man was going to raise his children or have her. Defendant testified that he and his wife did not argue that night, and he just wanted to stay together with his family. He did not want his family on welfare. He testified that he and his wife had sexual intercourse. Defendant and his wife agreed that he left the apartment at 4 a.m. Defendant again returned to the Princes' residence, and went to bed.

Defendant was extremely difficult to awake the next morning. He finally got up at 7:45 a.m., took Tom to school, and returned to pick up the girls. Mrs. Prince placed breakfast before the children. She was unsure whether or not Renay had taken any food, but thought that Renay did not eat very much, if at all. Defendant and the girls then left for school.

Two members of the safety patrol at the school thought they saw the Ray Chevrolet pass the school on Monday morning. 1 They did not see the car stop or anyone get out of it. Another crossing guard, who did not see the car, thought she saw two little girls, of Renay and Jeanette's ages, walking away from the school toward a shopping center, on that Monday. She did not know the Ray children, and testified she would not know the two Ray girls again if she saw them. The two little girls did not appear in their classes that morning, and never were seen alive again.

Defendant testified that he set out on a long drive, after dropping the two children at school. The drive took him through Petaluma, to the coast, up to Point Arena, back through Boonville and Cloverdale and to Napa. He was driving around to think things over, and to look for a job.

A former coworker of the defendant thought he saw the defendant, and possibly another...

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