EUGENE, Ore. -- Manuel Cortez, described by the prosecution as a sexual sadist, has been convicted of two counts of murder in the December 1979 slayings of two 11-year-old girls.
Prosecutor Justin Smith said he would seek the death penalty for Cortez, who showed no reaction when the verdict was announced Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court.
Cortez, 26, City of Industry, Calif., was charged with the sex and torture killings of Deanna Jackman and Rachel Isser, who disappeared Dec. 27 after leaving their homes in Ashland, Ore., to play tennis.
Rachel's body was found that evening in the stadium press box at Southern Oregon State College. Deanna's body was found in a rural area the next day. Both children died of suffocation and both bodies were mutilated.
In his closing argument before the jury of seven men and five women, Smith, the Jackson County district attorney, asked for a murder verdict, not manslaughter.
The jury, which heard the trial on a change of venue, deliberated for just over 2 hours before returning the verdicts.
Cortez was tried last summer for Rachel's death, but that trial ended in a hung jury. The two cases were consolidated for the week-long trial which ended with his conviction.
Smith said that during the pre-sentencing hearing, which is expected to begin early next year, the prosecution will contend Cortez is a sexual sadist and that a 'sexual sadist is basically unreformable.'
He said if Cortez is not sentenced to death, he could 'receive two 25-year consecutive sentences.'
Jeff Scott, the foreman of the hung jury which heard the first trial, said he was 'very relieved' by Tuesday's verdict. 'I think it's a just verdict,' he said.