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Halloween killer found guilty in slaying of wife, unborn child

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A man accused of posing as a trick-or-treater and hacking his pregnant ex-wife to death with a machete on Halloween 1984 has been convicted in the brutal slaying of the woman and her unborn child.

William Dennis, 38, was convicted by a jury Tuesday of the first-degree murder of Doreen Erbert, 31, and second-degree murder of her unborn child, an eight-month male fetus.

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Dennis, who sat calmly while the court clerk read the verdict Tuesday, told reporters later, 'The verdict was really wrong.' He was then silenced by his attorney.

Dennis, who apparently had held his ex-wife responsible for the earlier death of their son, said, 'Good night,' to relatives of the victims as he passed them while being led from the courtroom by deputy sheriffs.

The jury of two women and 10 men deliberated a little more than two days after a three-week trial.

Judge John Schatz scheduled the penalty phase for Monday.

The jury's finding of special circumstances in the case requires that they decide whether to send Dennis to the gas chamber or to prison without possibility of parole for having committed multiple murders.

Deputy Public Defender Tito Gonzales, Dennis' attorney, conceded during the trial that Dennis did commit the crimes. But he asked jurors to convict him of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder because he said Dennis was mentally ill.

In closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Paul Kuty described the murders in which Dennis, wearing a wolf mask and posing as a trick-or-treater, hacked Erbert, 31, to death with a machete and then cut out her 8-month fetus, hacked its foot off and threw it to the floor.

Deanna Erbert, 8, who was hiding behind a couch during the killings almost four years ago, testified during the trial that she heard the killer say, 'I'm going to kill you,' after her mother opened the door.

Dennis, a former machine operator for Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. in Sunnyvale, had maintained before the trial he was innocent.

Charles Erbert, the victim's second husband, testified during the trial that 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.

Several years before the slayings, Dennis had blamed his ex-wife for the accidental drowning of the couple's 3-year-old son.

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