On October 3, 1994, two boys broke into the Eugene, Oregon home of Janyce Iturra, entered her sleeping son's bedroom and shot Aaron Iturra in the back of the head. The murder was committed to prevent Aaron from testifying in juvenile court against a violent gang member named Beau Flynn who was a defendant in a stabbing.
Police quickly determined who committed the murder. Accomplice Joseph Richard Brown pleaded guilty of murder and in December, 1994 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is eligible for a 20% "good time" reduction. Shortly thereafter the shooter, James Roger Elstad, pleaded guilty of murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He is also eligible for a 20% "good time" reduction.
Further investigation indicated that the mastermind of this murder was Mary Thompson, the mother of Beau Flynn, who had portrayed herself as an anti-gang crusader. In February, 1995, she was charged with aggravated murder, the aggravating factor being that Aaron Iturra was killed to prevent his testimony in a criminal proceeding. At that time, the punishment for aggravated murder was either:
Life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years
Life in prison without the possibility of parole
The Lane County District Attorney chose not to pursue the death penalty.
The case went to trial in June, 1996. Evidence against Mary Thompson included statements the shooter made to police, tapes made by police of phone conversations, and a firsthand witness who testified that Mary Thompson encouraged the murder of Aaron Iturra. One witness said that Thompson was "on the line" and "excited" when she gave the shooter the go-ahead to murder Aaron Iturra. A tape of a phone conversation was played in which Joseph Brown told Mary Thompson that he would not testify against her. Mary Thompson testified in her defense for 2 1/2 hours.
After a six-week trial, a jury convicted Mary Thompson of aggravated murder. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In April of 2000, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned Mary Thompson's conviction for aggravated murder on the grounds that the juvenile court proceeding in which Aaron Iturra was to testify did not qualify as a "criminal proceeding" because it was in juvenile court, not adult court. The law on aggravated murder (ORS 163.095) says that a murder is aggravated if:
(2)(a)The victim was one of the following and the murder was related to the performance of the victim's official duties in the justice system:
(E) A juror or witness in a criminal proceeding;
In December of 2000, Mary Thompson was resentenced for murder, rather than aggravated murder. Her sentence was 25 years. She is eligible for a 20% "good time" reduction.
In September of 2000, Beau Flynn was convicted for being a felon in possession of a handgun and for hindering prosecution in connection with another murder - the July, 2000 murder of 18-year old Casey Stafek. In March, 2001 Flynn's friend Stephen Weavill was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2001, Janyce Iturra appealed to the Oregon Legislature to plug the loophole that allowed Mary Thompson to escape conviction for aggravated murder. House Bill 2092 easily passed the Oregon House but died after Governor John Kitzhaber raised objections.
In 2003, Janyce joined with State Representative Betsy Close and Crime Victims United in submitting House Bill 2796 in an ongoing attempt to plug this loophole.
Joseph Brown is scheduled to be released from prison in May, 2003.
This testimony was given by Janyce Iturra in 2001, in support of House Bill 2092
To the Committee Chairman and Committee Members
On September 15th, 1994 my son Aaron was a witness to a kids' fight where one boy had stabbed another boy. Because of this event he decided to step up to the plate and tell what he had seen, even though the one who did the stabbing was his friend. Aaron was scheduled to testify in juvenile court on October 5th. That all changed when someone decided to take this matter into their own hands.
On October 3rd, around 1:30 AM, two boys broke into my home and shot my son in the back of the head while he was sleeping. At 10:45 AM that morning, Aaron was pronounced dead. Because of Aaron's death, no one else would testify against Beau Flynn. He was then released without any charges. Within 3 to 4 days the two boys were caught and both were turned over to adult court. In adult court the shooter ended up getting 16 years and the accomplice got 10 years for the murder of my son. This was the maximum you could get in 1994.
The plans to have Aaron killed in order to shut him up became bigger than we ever expected. In February 1995, Mary Thompson was arrested. She was the one who conspired with all those teenagers (on behalf of her son Beau Flynn) to have Aaron killed so she wouldn't lose her son back to the system again.
Two more years went by and Mary Thompson's trial had started in early June, 1996, and on July 23rd she was found guilty of aggravated first degree murder plus several counts of hindering prosecution. She was given life without any chance of parole plus 10 1/2 years. I was overwhelmed with the decision because I knew she wouldn't be able to hurt any more children for the rest of her life.
This sentencing was overturned on December 20th, 2000, through the appeals process. Because Aaron was only being a witness on what they said was "just a juvenile matter", now Mary is only serving 25 years with a chance of parole after 10 years which means she is up for parole in 20051.
My feelings as Aaron's Mom: Back in September 1994 it was a very hard decision for my son to testify against his friend, but it was what he had to do - even though it cost him his life - I was proud of him!!! When Mary was given a shorter sentence on December 20th, 2000, I felt betrayed by the justice system. Knowing the only reason this happened was because of a little juvenile matter. You must see that my son is just as dead, whether it be a juvenile, civil, or adult court. Having a witness killed should hold the same sentencing time as the court can allow. You must understand that these witnesses are doing the right thing. The way it is today they and their families are being victimized all over again.
Thank you for hearing my words and hopefully voting for House Bill 2092.
Janyce Iturra of Eugene
1. On review of the second amended sentencing judgment from Judge Lyle Velure, it appears that Mary Thompson is not eligible for parole and should not be eligible for release until she has served 80 percent of the 25-year sentence.
This testimony was given by Janyce Iturra on April 10, 2003, in support of House Bill 2796.
My name is Janyce Iturra; I am from Eugene. I am a member of Crime Victims United. I am testifying as the mother of a murder victim. I am testifying in favor of the original bill.
In September of 1994 my son, Aaron Iturra was a witness to a knife assault by another juvenile. Aaron made the decision to step up and agreed to testify against that juvenile offender (Beau Flynn) in a juvenile court in October of 1994. Everything changed when the mother of the juvenile (Mary Thompson) decided to take the matter into her own hands and ordered the shooting death of my son to keep him from testifying. On October 3rd, around 1:30 am two boys broke into my home and shot my son in the back of the head while he was sleeping. At 10:45 am that morning Aaron was pronounced dead.
Joe Brown and Jim Elstad were ordered by Mary Thompson to execute my son to prevent his testimony. Brown received 10 years for murder, Elstad received 16 years for murder and Mary Thompson was convicted of aggravated murder, receiving life without parole. The aggravating factor being the murder of a witness in a trial. In 2000, Thompson appealed on the grounds that it was just a juvenile proceeding, actually won her appeal and was re-sentenced to a much lesser sentence for murder, instead of aggravated murder.................just because it was a juvenile hearing.
I would like you to imagine for a moment that an adult murders a member of your family, possibly your mother, because they are a witness in a criminal trial.........to keep them from testifying. That murderer can then be found guilty of aggravated murder.
THEN, imagine for a moment, that your sister is murdered to keep her from testifying; only this time it is just a juvenile trial. That murderer only can be found guilty of murder and not aggravated murder. Both were stepping up and doing the right thing, just as my son Aaron did, but you must understand that they are just as DEAD.
I believe anyone who orders the murder of a witness at any level of legal court proceeding, whether it is juvenile, civil or criminal should be eligible under the aggravated murder statute.
Since October 1994 my family and I have lived in fear. On May 2nd, in just three weeks, the first shooter, Joe Brown, is scheduled to be released from state prison; the second shooter is scheduled to be released in 2008, and Mary Thompson will be eligible for parole around 2020. Aaron got the death penalty and my family is sentenced to life without Aaron. Iím asking you to please pass HB 2796 in its un-amended original form.
Thank you for this opportunity.