[UPDATED with Hearing Postponed:] Ivan Von Staich, Killer of Ex's Husband and Near-Killer of Her, Seeks Parole Again
See the update at the end of this post on the parole hearing being delayed.
ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 27, 3:49 P.M.: He's baaaaaaack!
Ivan Von Staich--who twice escaped from jail, threatened to kill a judge, nearly killed his ex-girlfriend by bludgeoning her with a claw hammer and fatally shot her new husband--is once again going before a state parole board that previously approved his release, only to be overturned by Jerry Brown after the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) appealed to the governor.
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On parole for arson in Riverside County in mid-1983, Von Staich hit the jaw of Cynthia Topper, a waitress he'd started dating three years earlier, and threatened to kill her. Pleading for her life, Topper told Von Staich she loved him to stop the abuse. But then she informed Von Staich's halfway house about the incident, and the parolee threatened to kill her again. Later that month, he broke into her home and stole some photographs. He discovered she was dating her future husband, Robert Topper, and started calling and harassing him. Due to the threats and harassment, Von Staich's parole was revoked.
He was released on Nov. 17, 1983, with orders to stay away from the Toppers. Around 1 a.m. on Dec. 8, 1983, the then-27-year-old arrived at the Toppers' Santa Ana home, cut the outside telephone wires with pliers and kicked open the front door. Wearing gloves and armed with two hammers, he walked to the master bedroom and struck Cynthia with the claw hammer before she ran to the kitchen.
Robert, armed with a gun, fired at Von Staich, hitting him and severing one of his fingers. But Von Staich managed to get the gun away from Robert before repeatedly bludgeoning him with the hammer. While Robert was lying face down on the ground, Von Staich fired the gun five times at close range, hitting Mr. Topper in the head, chest and neck.
Von Staich then ran to the kitchen looking for Cynthia. He pistol whipped her and shot her in the uterus before running to a neighboring house to seek help for his wounds. She spent months in a coma before coming out it.
Awaiting sentencing after acting as his own lawyer and being convicted by a jury of killing Robert and trying to kill Cynthia, Von Staich and another convicted murderer, Robert J. Clark, then 23, of Palm Springs, escaped from Orange County Jail on Jan. 26, 1986, by shimmying down from a rooftop recreational area to freedom via electrical cords and makeshift ropes.
Clark was captured a week later and ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It took authorities a month to catch Von Staich, a trail that ended in Massachusetts. He was sentenced on May 23, 1986, in Orange County to 30 years to life in state prison on one felony count each of second degree murder, attempted murder, and sentencing enhancements for the use of a deadly weapon and inflicting great bodily injury.
Besides threatening the life of Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald, Von Staich has spent his time in state prison filing reams and reams of legal documents, complaints and lawsuits. (Many of these are detailed in the second link above, and that post includes a link to even more cases.)
Despite an aggressive argument from the OCDA, whose former Deputy District Attorney Richard King won the original conviction, and attending Senior Deputy District Attorney Ray Armstrong, including citations of Von Staich's mayhem in and out of prison and jail, the Board of Parole Hearings, California Corrections and Rehabilitation found he had been a good prisoner in recent years, would pose no threat to the public if released and should have been paroled last February. The OCDA appealed that decision to Brown, and in late February the governor reversed the parole board.
Von Staich was ordered to remain behind bars pending a new parole hearing, which was originally scheduled for September. The hearing was delayed at his request, and a new one is set for Wednesday at his current place of residence, the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.
According to a statement from the OCDA, Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephan Sauer will appear before the parole board to argue for Von Staich's continued incarceration. Sauer will note that Von Staich has accumulated 11 prison rules violations while inside, that he has failed to seek self-help or self-improvement and that he "poses a violent threat as he was also disciplined for being in possession of dangerous property, mailing threatening and intimidating correspondence and stalking," states the OCDA.
Sauer will also point to Von Staich being "recognized as one of the most litigious prisoners in California," having filed numerous unresolved lawsuits against former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Department of Corrections and even the parole board itself, according to the OCDA.
"Factoring in the brutality of the commitment offense, which obliterated the lives of a family, adding the fact that the murder and attempted murder were committed after Von Staich's release from prison, and that he was in direct violation of his probation terms in his extraordinary efforts to locate Cynthia Topper, Von Staich's release would present an unacceptable threat to public safety," concludes the OCDA. "Thus, parole should be denied."
UPDATE, NOV. 29, 12:49 P.M.: The state parole has postponed "until an undetermined time" a hearing for Ivan Von Staich, according to an OCDA statement today.
His request will undergo further review in the meantime, the agency adds.
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