A 27-year-old former Marine was convicted Tuesday of stabbing his wife and their infant son to death in Anaheim.
Kwame Adom Carpenter, who is scheduled to be sentenced April 26, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing 24-year-old Moureen Gathua-Carpenter and their 6-month-old son, Kyan, on June 22, 2015.
Jurors deliberated several hours over two days before finding Carpenter guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and finding true a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
The couple met and started dating in 2010. They got married in 2014, but had an "on-again, off-again relationship," Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy told jurors in his opening statement. At the time of the killings, Carpenter was based out of Camp Pendleton and was in the process of winding up his career in the Marines, McGreevy said.
The couple and their son were living in an apartment at 2648 W. Ball Road with the defendant's mother-in-law, the prosecutor said. The couple separated twice in 2015, once around Mother's Day for a few days and again the following month, McGreevy said.
But a few days before the killings, the two agreed to give their marriage another chance and spent a pleasant weekend together, he said. But that Monday morning, the defendant's wife picked up her husband's phone while getting ready for work and was angered when she saw text messages between him and a female co-worker, McGreevy said.
"She said, 'Here we go again,'" the prosecutor said. "She slaps him and says, 'It's time for you to get out. We've done this dance one too many times.'"
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At one point during the argument, Gathua-Carpenter left the apartment and implored a deliveryman outside the complex to call 911, according to McGreevy, who said the defendant dragged her back into the apartment.
After Carpenter showed her a butcher knife and said "we're done arguing," she went to get their son and was holding him when the defendant shoved her to the floor and kicked her in the head, then began stabbing the victims, McGreevy said.
The deliveryman alerted an apartment manager, who dashed over to the couple's residence. But the defendant blocked the manager's entrance and assured her that despite Kyan's crying, the infant was fine, the prosecutor said.
When Carpenter left the apartment and got into a Lincoln Town Car, the manager found the victims inside, McGreevy said.
"She sees Moureen on the ground covered in blood," he said. "She sees Kyan covered in blood in a onesie."
The apartment manager tried to revive the baby with CPR while calling 911, McGreevy said, but the infant was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at a local hospital.
Carpenter was later spotted in the Lincoln at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, but he drove away as police approached, leading them on a chase at speeds up to 80 mph on Euclid Avenue, McGreevy said. Carpenter kept going, despite several collisions, until he crashed the car again at Edinger Avenue and ran into Mile Square Park in Santa Ana, McGreevy said. Carpenter jumped into a lake in the park and was later taken into custody with help from police dogs.
Carpenter's attorney, Sara Nakada, said her client "never planned to kill his family."
The defendant was attempting to pack up his belongings and leave the apartment, but his wife was throwing them out the door and ceaselessly hollering at him, the defense attorney said. The "provocation overcame all reason," and Carpenter, who felt "impotent" to stop his wife's shouting, snapped and attacked her, Nakada said.
"In his blinding rage he just could not see" his baby son, so stabbed him, too, she said. Before his wife confronted him, Carpenter was asleep with their child, Nakada said.
"He just wanted to pack and leave, but she would not relent," she said. "This mild-mannered man exploded in rage that exceeded all reason."
Carpenter's flight included various attempts to take his own life when he realized what he had done, his attorney said.
"He thought of ways to end his life, crash into a tree, drown himself, suicide by cop," Nakada said.