California, USA – Local convenient store owners in the El Cajon and the San Diego area feel safer. Jeda Athra, a mother of three teenagers works long hours with her husband at a corner retail store says she is happy to see the police and prosecuting attorneys taking a stronger stance against crime. “They need to clean-up the criminals from the streets and let everyone know that holding-up a store in our town means you will go to jail.”
Athra’s husband adds, “Our state is bankrupt which means more crime and more problems. We need police to scare bad people away from here before they kill anyone else. Look at those two evil criminals that now face the death penalty. It does not pay to hurt people in our city.”
The convenient store couple refer to the Thanksgiving bandits. Franko “Dopes” Bernal and Samuel Thomas “Tommy” McCauley, 21 face a death sentence or life in prison for gunning down store workers in 2006.
Bernal, 24, and Samuel Thomas “Tommy” McCauley, 21, were convicted Feb. 11 of two counts of murder for gunning down, an 18-year-old man, and killing a 54-year-old clerk at Lemon Grove 7-Eleven, during a robbery. The two were also convicted of attempted murder for shooting a customer in the jaw in the Nov. 25 robbery on Broadway near Buena Vista Avenue. Bernal also was convicted of robbery and attempted robbery, and McCauley was convicted of robbery but acquitted of attempted robbery.
Lawyers for the two criminals argued for mercy, saying Bernal and McCauley had horrible childhoods.
McCauley's mother testified that she was a drug-addicted, alcoholic prostitute and couldn’t even count how many times she has been arrested on drug and prostitution charges. She said McCauley's trial was the first time she had seen her son since he was about 5 years old.
McCauley's father was a convicted sex offender who abused drugs and alcohol and often fought with his son, said defense attorney Daniel Mangarin.
Bernal had an equally hard life, his lawyers said. When he was 9, his father, a heavy drug user, was killed when he got caught up in a gang-related shooting. Two of the boy's uncles were shot in the head but survived, said Alternate Public Defender Jacqueline Crowle. She said Bernal's mother was addicted to heroin and methamphetamine. Bernal was “a throwaway child,” Crowle said.
Deputy District Attorney James Romo told jurors that no matter how bad their childhood was, it doesn't make up for the pain McCauley and Bernal caused the families of those they killed.
“There are millions of children who grow up in horrible circumstances (with) alcoholic parents and fathers in prison and do not take that additional step to end another person's life,” Romo said.
Judge Allan J. Preckel set a March 20 hearing to determine the next step in the case.