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.
Ivan Von Staich: Killer Loses Parole Battle But Wins the Ugliest Mugshot of the Week War
Ivan Von Staich, Convicted Murderer Who Scored Win in Parole Bid, Has Menaced Courts for Years
William Gregory Mordick, Done In by Blood, Guilty of Killing Wife . . . 27 Years Ago!
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
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
He was released on Nov. 17, 1983, with orders to stay
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
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.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.