Buddhist temple murder case deliberations begin

Johnathan Doody is again on trial for the 1991 murders of nine people at a Buddhist temple in Phoenix, Ariz.
Posted By Gabrielle Levy  |  Jan. 14, 2014 at 3:46 PM
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The fate of the second suspect in the 1991 mass murder of nine people at an Arizona Buddhist temple is once again in the hands of a jury.

Johnathan Doody, 39, is accused of nine counts each of first-degree murder and armed robbery, as well as burglary and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

He, along with his alleged co-conspirator, Alessandro Garcia, were sentenced to multiple life sentences each in 1994, when the case first went to trial. But when Garcia pleaded guilty, Doody did not, and his case was tossed out in federal appeals court because the Maricopa County sheriff's deputies were found to have improperly obtained his confession.

Last year, Doody's case returned to trial, but the jury could not agree on a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial in October.

At the heart of the case is whether the jurors believe Garcia, a confessed murderer who also admitted to killing another woman after the temple murders.

Garcia claims that while he was at the Phoenix temple, he discharged his gun four times, but blamed Doody for the rest. Doody planned the robbery and decided to eliminate the witnesses, shooting each person in the back of the head with a .22 rifle.

“Alex Garcia earned his place in prison,” said Deputy County Attorney Jason Kalish. “The question before us is whether you believe his testimony.”

“For this to be a lie, it’s got to be the best lie ever told,” he told the jury.

But defense attorney Maria Schaffer said Garcia's story isn't to be trusted, and that there is no physical evidence to prove Doody was even at the temple.

Garcia vandalized the temple walls, counted the money and kept it, she said.

"He did this to save his own butt, pardon the expression, not out of the goodness of his heart," Shaffer said. "He doesn't have goodness in his heart."

Doody, 39, is of Thai descent, as were all of the victims of the 1991 shooting. The dead were the abbot, Pairuch Kanthong; five monks, Surichai Anuttaro, Boochuay Chaiyarach, Chalerm Chantapim, Siang Ginggaeo and Somsak Sopha; a nun, Foy Sripanpasert and her nephew, a novice monk Matthew Miller; and a temple employee, Chirasak Chirapong.

[Arizona Republic]

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