A Stanislaus County judge sentenced a 25-year-old man who admitted shooting and beating his parents to death in their Del Rio home more than a year ago to 100 years to life in prison Tuesday.
Cameron Terhune must serve all 100 years for killing Ken Terhune, 65, and Diane Terhune, 56, before he is eligible for parole, authorities said.
"It's obvious that this is a real community tragedy with long-lasting effects," Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova said.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lau-gero read letters from two of the victims' relatives, who asked that their names not be used. The letters included harsh words to Terhune, whom they called remorseless. The relatives said Terhune's writings to them were full of self-pity for his coming prison sentence and requests for money to spend in the jail commissary.
"I hope, for your sake, one day you gain a soul," Diane Terhune's sister wrote.
At the start of the Tuesday afternoon hearing, Cameron Terhune scanned the courtroom for familiar faces. The only people sitting behind Terhune — who had his hair shaved into a short mohawk and sported a bushy beard — were court employees and attorneys. Relatives and neighbors of the Terhune family sat behind Laugero, on the other side of the courtroom.
Terhune's guilty pleas last month surprised prosecutors, who had their first witness on the stand to start a hearing to determine whether Terhune would stand trial in the double murder.
A prosecutor agreed to drop a special allegation that would have brought a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange for Terhune's guilty pleas. On March 9, Terhune pleaded guilty to two counts of first- degree murder and gun enhancements. He cannot appeal his conviction.
On the afternoon of Jan. 13, 2009, Terhune arrived at his adoptive parents' house at 201 Stewart Road, armed himself with several guns and waited for his parents to return home, prosecutor Rick Mury said.
Terhune's younger brother was the first to encounter him. Terhune demanded his brother leave the house in the country club area north of Modesto before the carnage ensued. "(Cameron) said it was either the parents or all of them," Mury said.
According to Mury:
Terhune's first victim was his father, who was in the kitchen when his son shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly.
Terhune shot his mother several times after she screamed, then tripped and fell to the ground in the house's entryway. Terhune got another gun from the bedroom and kept shooting his mother. He then hit her on the head with a flashlight until she lost consciousness.
Police found the Terhunes two days after the shooting, and arrested Cameron Terhune later that night when they found him sitting in a car on Floyd Avenue near Rose Avenue.
In a March 2009 jailhouse interview with The Bee, Terhune said he struggled with mental health problems, had daily headaches, problems with mood swings and took medication to deal with the symptoms of schizophrenia. Terhune told friends he couldn't join the Navy because of those health problems and was under family pressure to get his life on track.
Several of Terhune's friends say he had never been violent, although he was "slipping mentally" after a series of disappointments: He dropped out of several colleges, had an uninspired reunion with his birth parents and suffered romantic frustrations.
But Chief Deputy Public Defender Maureen Keller said she could not advise Terhune to plead not guilty by reason of insanity after the results of a mental health evaluation. Keller told Córdova last month that she had "no issues" regarding Terhune's competency to enter guilty pleas.
Keller said Terhune wished to be taken to state prison immediately.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.