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Death sentence upheld for man who set Tustin bookkeeper on fire

March 11, 2010 | 11:05 am

The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a death sentence for a man who doused a Tustin bookkeeper with gasoline and set her on fire in a dispute about a paycheck.

Jonathan D'Arcy, convicted of the 1993 murder of Karen Laborde, appealed his death sentence on a variety of grounds, including the admission of pre-autopsy photographs of the charred victim during his trial. In an unanimous ruling written by Justice Carlos R. Moreno, the court found the photographs were relevant to support the prosecution's theory that the killing was accompanied by torture and mayhem.

D'Arcy, angry that he had not been paid for janitorial service, went to Laborde's office on Feb. 2, 1993, with a water bottle of gasoline and sprayed it on her face, arms, dress and head.

"'This is what you get when you hold my ------- money,'" the court said he shouted at her, using a profanity.

Laborde stood up and wiped her face.

"'Oh God,'" the court quoted her as saying. "'Why are you doing this to me?'"

D'Arcy then set her on fire. She suffered burns over 90% of her body and was told by doctors she was certain to die. She requested pain medication and gave an interview to police shortly before she died later that day.

Police found a check on Laborde's desk made out to D'Arcy for $159. It was dated Jan. 31, 1993.

The court said two forensic psychologists had diagnosed D'Arcy with paranoid schizophrenia and paranoid disorder, and others found him to have an antisocial personality disorder.

-- Maura Dolan

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