UPDATE 8/17/2016 10:18 AM: Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty in the Tami Huntsman murder trial. Huntsman was heard crying when Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers made the announcement in court Wednesday.
UPDATE 8/15/2016 6:30 PM: A high-profile child murder case will be back in a Salinas courtroom this week. On Wednesday, prosecutors are expected to announce if they will seek the death penalty against one of the suspects, Tami Huntsman.
Huntsman and alleged co-conspirator Gonzalo Curiel are accused of killing Delylah, 3, and Shaun Tara, 6, then dumping their bodies in a plastic bin in a Redding storage facility. They’re also accused of abusing another girl who was found in Plumas County.
In December, District Attorney Dean Flippo said Huntsman was eligible for the death penalty. However, Curiel is not because he was a minor when the alleged crimes took place.
In his 20+ years as district attorney, Flippo has pursued the death penalty a handful of times, with jurors sending at least three men to San Quentin’s Death Row.
-Convicted murderer and white supremacist Kenneth Bivert was sentenced to die after killing a fellow inmate, convicted child molester Leonard Swartz at Salinas Valley State Prison in 1997.
-In 1998, 12-year-old Nicole Carnahan was found beaten to death in her Salinas home. Authorities say Ronald Moore killed her when she interrupted a home burglary.
-In 1994, the Morales family was gunned down on East Market Street in Salinas. The sole survivor was an infant. Daniel Sanchez Covarrubias was later convicted and condemned to die for the killings.
"Never anything in this nature that was horrendous as this was," Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter said.
Twenty-two years ago, Gunter was a homicide detective investigating that deadly shooting.
"Gunpowder. You could smell it in the air when you arrived,” Gunter described. “It was a heavy, foggy night. People injured, the baby crying. People were dead. It was horrendous."
A devastating case then, as the Huntsman-Curiel case is now.
Defense attorney Tom Worthington is not involved in the Huntsman-Curiel case, but has worked on 10 capital punishment cases in his 45-year career. He said the DA’s Office could consider things like the seriousness of the offense, criminal history and consistency with other capital cases.
He told KION what he would do if he was Huntsman’s attorney.
"Past record would be extremely important assuming she has none,” Worthington said. “Her mental condition at the time, whether that was compromised by anything that was going on in her life. I think those are the things I would be looking at because if she was responsible for a child's death, you can hardly make any argument about a child."
Gunter knows the death penalty is not a decision that the DA’s Office takes lightly.
"I think they look at this as the ultimate decision they've got to make and when they do this, it's a tough decision because now we've put ourselves in the same position,” Gunter said. “We're going to be responsible for somebody losing their life."
Huntsman and Curiel’s trial is slated to begin next February.
ORIGINAL POST: A Salinas mother accused of killing and abusing two young children last year is scheduled to be in court again on Wednesday.
The Monterey County District Attorney's Office said it is weighing whether to pursue the death penalty in the case against Tami Huntsman.
KION's Mariana Hicks looks into Monterey County's previous death penalty cases and investigates the magnitude of the decision.