Girl recounts grisly Halloween murders


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- She was just 4-years-old on Halloween night 1984 when a man wearing a wolf mask broke into the house and hacked her pregnant mother to death, the girl testified Tuesday.

Deanna Erbert, 8, speaking in a quiet, clear voice, said the carnage began after she and her mother, Doreen, answered a knock at the door together, thinking that another trick-or-treater was seeking candy.


'My mommy said, 'Get out ofmy house,' and he said, 'I'm going to kill you.' My mommy told me to hide behind the couch, so I did.'

Erbert was the first witness on the opening day of the Santa Clara County Superior Court murder trial of William Michael Dennis, 38, a former husand of Doreen Erbert.

Dennis allegedly cut out his ex-wife's 8-month-old fetus with a machete and threw it to the floor. Both the mother and fetus had severed limbs, investigators said.

Dennis is charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of Doreen Erbert and the unborn child and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Deanna, the daughter of Doreen and Charles Erbert, said she had only partial memories of the incident.


At one point, the girl referred to the voices she heard as 'Mommy's and Daddy's,' but then quickly added, 'I mean Mommy's and his.'

Charles Erbert, Deanna's father and the victim's second husband, was arrested the night of the murders but later released after police found blood and other evidence allegedly linking Dennis to the crime.

In her opening argument to the jury, Deputy District Attorney Paula Kuty said the wolf mask found at the scene is identical to a mask worn by Dennis in Halloween photographs a year earlier.

'You will recognize the mask,' Kuty said, 'and you will recognize the defendant for what he is -- a murderer.'

'He took it off so she would see him. He wanted her to know who was doing this,' Kuty said.

Dennis, a former machine operator for Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. in Sunnyvale, has repeatedly maintained his innocence.

Charles Erbert said he returned home about 15 minutes after the attack to find his still-breathing wife and the dead fetus on the living room floor of their San Jose home.

Police later found traces of the victim's blood, two coffin-sized wooden boxes, two large cloth bags and two sea anchors at Dennis's home.


Several years before the slayings, Dennis had blamed his ex-wife for the accidental drowning of the couple's 3-year-old son while the boy was in her custody after their 1978 divorce. He filed suit against her for negligence, but the suit was dismissed.

The murders gained widespread publicity at the time, and Dennis's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Tito Gonzales, had asked that the trial be moved to another county.

Gonzales said Tuesday he is convinced the 12 people selected for the jury will give Dennis a fair trial.

'The feelings and passions have abided a little,' he said.

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