Phoenix Buddhist temple mass murderer found guilty

doodyA man accused of the worst mass murder in Arizona history has been found guilty by a Maricopa County jury for a second time, more than two decades after the crime. Johnathan A. Doody, age 40, was originally convicted in 1993 for robbing and fatally shooting nine people in a Phoenix Buddhist temple in 1991. His convictions were later overturned, and he was retried twice.

His first retrial ended in a mistrial last year.

On August 10, 1991, the bodies of nine people were found shot to death in the Wat Promkuneram Buddhist Temple in Phoenix. The victims, all of whom were of Thai descent, included the temple abbot, five monks, an apprentice monk, a nun and her nephew. There were 17 .22 caliber shell casings and four shotgun shells found at the scene. Police investigators were able to determine that the .22 caliber shell casings most likely came from a rifle manufactured by Marlin Firearms. Over the following weeks, police seized dozens of Marlin .22 rifles and performed ballistics tests.

A month after the murders, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Officers seized a Marlin .22 rifle from Rolando Caratachea Jr., who had been stopped by Luke Air Force Base Police for a traffic violation a few weeks earlier. The rifle was found in Caratachea’s vehicle during the traffic stop, and Johnathan Doody was a passenger. Ballistics testing by the Department of Public Safety determined Caratachea’s rifle was the weapon used to murder the nine victims in the temple. When questioned by police, Caratachea said he had loaned the rifle to his friends, Alex Garcia and Johnathan Doody, shortly before the murders.

Garcia and Doody were arrested and questioned. Garcia admitted to the murders and named Doody as his sole accomplice. He stated their plan was to rob the temple members because Doody needed money to pay for a new car. According to Garcia, Doody came up with the idea of killing the victims to eliminate any witnesses to the robbery. The two were charged with multiple counts of First Degree Murder and Armed Robbery in February of 1992. As part of a plea agreement, Garcia agreed to testify against Doody and inform police about additional crimes in which he had been involved. He admitted that he and his girlfriend, Michelle Hoover, had killed Alice Cameron, a woman camping at Horseshoe Lake in 1991. Garcia was ultimately sentenced to ten life sentences. Michelle Hoover pled guilty to Second Degree Murder and was sentenced to a 15-year prison term. She was released from prison in 2008.

At Doody’s trial, the State presented evidence of items taken from the temple that were linked to Doody. Additional evidence, including testimony from other witnesses, also helped establish Doody’s role in the murders. In July, 1993, a jury found him guilty on nine counts of First Degree Murder, nine counts of Armed Robbery, one count of Burglary and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery. He was sentenced to a prison term of 281 years. Doody’s convictions were upheld by the State Court of Appeals, and his petition for Habeas relief was denied by the U.S. District Court.

In 2010, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court finding that Doody’s confession was voluntary and his convictions were subsequently overturned. In October 2013, a retrial on the original charges ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. The second retrial began in December and lasted 20 days. The jury deliberated for five days before reaching guilty verdicts on all 20 counts. Jurors also found that aggravating circumstances were proven on the nine Armed Robbery counts and one count of Burglary. Doody is scheduled to be sentenced on March 14, 2014.

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